Katie Travis (Christine) and Chris Mann (the Phantom) in Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Long before Hamilton was the impossible-to-get ticket in New York, The Phantom of the Opera held that honor. Maybe you’ve seen this celebrated musical before. Maybe you’ve seen it multiple times and own so many tasseled programs that you can’t remember which one goes with which performance. (Oh, wait. That’s me…) But some shows simply never get old, haunted by an unforgettable score that insinuates itself into moments of one’s own life.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom is definitely one of those productions. Whether you’ve seen it on stage a dozen times, have only seen the movie (especially if you’ve only seen the movie) or somehow missed this phenomenon entirely, the re-imagined national tour that premieres in Houston this month holds massive appeal.
After all, this isn’t the same Phantom that you’ve seen in New York, London or dozens of other international cities, or on tour across the States. Nor is it the Royal Albert Hall variation that aired on PBS a few years ago. Unless you saw the most recent UK tour (2012 through 2013), this is a Phantom unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Granted, the music (composed by Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, and book by Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber) remains the same, although the orchestrations by David Cullen and Lloyd Webber have been slightly updated. Also unchanged is Maria Björnson’s Tony Award-winning costume design (although the Phantom’s Red Death costume, as seen in the promo video, seems to borrow from the movie redesign). You can also expect such pivotal set pieces as the chandelier and the gondola drifting through its misty maze of candelabra — but don’t expect them to look exactly the same. Witness the picture above for just one example of how the familiar visuals have evolved.
This Phantom features all-new set design by opera designer Paul Brown, who has enriched the staging with pyrotechnics and theater magic that didn’t even exist when the elaborate draperies first rose on Phantom in the 1980s. Laurence Connor directs the action in this palatial new playground; he also directed the new production of Les Misérables, which visited Houston a few years ago and now lives on Broadway, as well as the revival of Miss Saigon in London and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new School of Rock on Broadway. Other key players include Scott Ambler, choreography; Paule Constable, lighting design; Mick Potter, sound design; and John Rigby, musical supervision. The production is presented by Cameron Mackintosh, The Really Useful Group and NETworks Presentations.
A cast and orchestra of 52 bring the show — one of the largest productions currently on tour in North America — to life each performance. Behind the mask is Chris Mann, whom audiences might remember from NBC’s The Voice; he has since released a debut album, starred in his own PBS-TV special and racked up credits ranging from Christmas at Rockefeller Center to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Christine is played by Katie Travis, an ingenue whose previous roles have included Cosette in Les Misérables, Yum-Yum in The Mikado and Emma Carew in Jekyll & Hyde. Rounding out the cast are Storm Lineberger (Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny), Jacquelynne Fontaine (Carlotta), David Benoit (Monsieur Firmin), Edward Staudenmayer (Monsieur André), Anne Kanengeiser (Madame Giry), Frank Viveros (Ubaldi Piangi), Morgan Cowling (Meg Giry) and Celia Hottenstein (alternate Christine). For full cast details, click here.
It’s important to note that the North American tour is the only place to see this new production. Tickets always sell fast for any incarnation of this beloved musical, so book your seats now. The Phantom of the Opera runs November 18 through 29 at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets start at $45 and can be purchased by phone (800.982.2787), at the Hobby Center Box Office (800 Bagby) or through Ticketmaster. For more information about all things Phantom, click here.
Still need convincing? The Phantom of the Opera — based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux — is the longest-running production on Broadway, now in its 27th year. The musical still flourishes on London’s West End as well and is packing theaters in Hamburg, Stockholm, Moscow, Beijing and Budapest. Isn’t it time you found out why? (Long-time fans: Can you really resist keeping your hand at the level of your eye to find out what’s changed?)