Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Phantom- The Las Vegas Spectacular

Now, when you out the word 'spectacular' in the title of a show (yes, this is the official title of the show- it isn't Phantom of the Opera) you have to expect it's going to be awesome. When you build a custom theater in the Venetian hotel in Vegas, you have to expect it's going to be awesome. When you're basically 'rebooting' or 'updating' the longest running show in the history of Broadway, you have to expect it's going to be awesome.

When I to see a Phantom show, you have to expect I'm going to have something to say. And I saw it was awesome.

Phantom Las Vegas was 100% the motivation behind our cross country trip to Las Vegas- I had thought that it would be fun to invite my two best friends from home along to enjoy the trip, and they elected not to see the show, as I had also convinced (read: dragged) them to go to Cleveland to see one of the final legs of the Phantom of the Opera National Tour. My sister and I had originally decided to go and see the show in honor of our 10th Phanniversary in 2013, but to my horror they announced that the show was closing September 2nd, 2012. We decided that we weren't going to pass up the chance to see the show. And thus, the trip was born.

can't believe I made it!

Phantom Las Vegas is a shortened, 95 minute show without an intermission. Apparently they thought the Vegas audiences wouldn't want to be away from the casinos for a full length show, and I supposed around 90 minutes is the standard performance time in Vegas? I'm not sure. The only other show I saw was the Chippendales show (it was great ladies) and that was around 90 minutes so I'm guessing that's just how long shows are.

Being that the original runs about 2.5 hours with an intermission, that means that without a break it's around 140-150 minutes, and so actually a lot of time had to be cut. If you haven't ever seen Phantom, you probably won't care/notice what you're missing, and if you don't know the show well it probably doesn't matter. It didn't matter a ton to me, but there are a few cuts I don't agree with- Point of No Return being the big one, but I'll get to that later. Soooo, here are my thoughts on the show overall.

The beginning of the show goes by much faster than the original- the auction scene is cut short (think 2004 movie if you want to imagine the cuts- less lots, no "your velvet lining" line) and then the chandelier assembles itself from a bunch of separate parts across the theater. That part is pretty awesome to watch, and keeps your interest. It is so different from the chandelier in the original. And though it is wonderful, part of me just prefers the realism of the chandelier just rising instead of magically assembling itself, because I think if they were at an auction of old stuff the chandelier pieces wouldn't be just hanging around, but it does make for a great effect.

The hannibal ballet is much quicker too, and they cut out Christine being clumsy and such, just to speed it up. Carlotta's monologues aren't as long but they thankfully (unlike the UK tour) kept the elephant. Kristen Hertzenberg, the alternate Christine, is fantastic. She's got a beautiful voice and is just lovely. This is where the custom theater is awesome- it really makes you feel like you're transported back in time when there are tons of opera boxes along the sides in the theater. Very cool

Andrew Ragone is a dashing Raoul, and I like him a lot. Though I will say that the disappearance in the mirror, while still awesome, uses a bit too much fog (nitpicky, I know) because if I entered the room and there was  bunch of fog coming from under the mirror, I might suspect something.

I don't know why but I found it interesting that the boat enters from stage right instead of left. I don't know why, it's just cool. Anyway, the descent is awesome, and I noticed that the backtrack of the Vegas version has a bit more in it and it sounded like a chorus was singing "Aaaah" as the 'those who have seen your face' part happened. I'm bad at describing it. It was creepy and cool.

Crivello is a very intriguing Phantom, and has been with the show since the beginning. Having seen the likes of John Cudia, Brad Little, JOJ and Hugh live, Crivello's voice was slightly nasally to me at some points but still powerful and enjoyable. His MOTN is great, and though I like the glass effect over the mirror bride (she falls forward and shatters the glass, causing Christine to faint) I felt like it was another cool but slightly overdone effect (much like the fog- too much of a good thing). Why was there broken glass in front of it? I mean, if it was a mirror it would have been reflecting, not showing the doll behind it. TOO NITPICKY, I KNOW!!! Aside from that, it was a shock to me when he didn't catch her- not because I didn't know it was coming, but because the last time I'd seen the show was in London and for some reason I forgot he couldn't catch her in America. Damn I hate that rule. The catch is soooo much better.

Kristen accidentally kicked the organ during "I remember/STYDI" which was funny and then Crivello goes mad, though for some reason he wasn't really rushing around the stage like Phantoms normally do. He kind of just casually walked behind her, which I found not fitting.The cuts make the scene rushed, he doesn't have time to wallow on the ground or anything before crawling over to her, but whatever. We are limited on time.

Notes 1 is cut up as well, with some of the funny bits still included and emphasized. Prima donna was edited down, much to my sister's delight as she's not a huge fan. I myself missed the "but if it's loudly sung and in a foreign tongue" part, but again, if you aren't listening for it you probably wouldn't notice. It isn't my favorite scene anyway, but I do like that they added a big wooden door in the back so they aren't just entering through a random hole that keeps appearing.  With the rushed staging, minor characters like Meg, Piangi and arguably Carlotta and the Managers are kind of pushed aside in favor of moving the story along, though I can tell each actor still tried to make it their own. The managers were very funny and good. I really liked them a lot.

The best part of Il Muto is when the Phantom hangs from the chandelier when she croaks. CRAZY. Though again, the comedy of this scene is rushed (ie when they start over with 'away with this pretense' they don't have time to play up the fact that Serafimo has already been revealed). The ballet is shorter but still cool, and the added shadows and then view of Buquet and the Phantom struggling are cool.

Why have you brought me here/Raoul I've been there is sped up times like 10, which is sad cause I love R/C interaction (I'm a fan of Raoul, so sue me). Thankfully AIAOY remains untouched, because I love that song. Andrew is a wonderfully suave and protecting Raoul. Love him. The song brings tears to my eyes- it's just so pretty. No spinning around after though. Come on, that's like 2 seconds of adorableness that could have been spared.

Crivello's Phantom is suitably despondent, but instead of the chandelier crash we get LIGHTNING AND THUNDER HOLY CRAP. This is an excellent effect that I think the original could stand to use, even with the chandelier crashing. It just emphasizes the anger soooo much.

What would be act 2 starts with fireworks. REAL FIREWORKS. I LOVED this addition, as well as the outer facade of the Palais Garnier. Very, very cool. Act 2 seems to bear the brunt of the cuts, as Masquerade is slightly shorter, but Madame Giry's tale and Notes 2 are CHOPPED. Giry shouts through her tale kind of like I SAW A DEFORMED MAN AT A FAIR THERE HAVE BEEN TOO MANY ACCIDENTS. And we're all just like o.O? And Raoul (still in his outfit) comes up with his plan. My sister turned to me at this point and said "Christine had time to change but nobody else did?" which is a bit odd but again, not too noticeable.

One cut I don't agree with here is the absence of the line "What I once used to dream, I now dread... he'll always be there singing songs in my head..." because I think it underscores the terror that has overcome Christine. She used to pray for this to happen, and now it's what she fears most. But I digress. Ragone is charming as ever as he tries to comfort his lady love, but turns fierce and determined to beat his rival as Christine races away.

Thank god there's no magical piano rehearsal scene. One major cut that I agree with.

Minute cuts to Wishing lead into a lovely Wandering Child (again, I was expecting the London trio, even though I am WELL aware that I am still in America) and the change I liked here was the absence of the staff. Instead, Crivello seems to just throw fireballs (out of his sleeve, I can see him grabbing whatever it is they use for the effect). I'm still team 25th anniversary/UK tour for this effect- throwing fire near the couple heightens the danger- throwing them in the air is cool but less menacing than the other option, but they did do this show like 5 years before the 25th, so they were updating the old version. kudos for that.

Before the show- yay they still have the marksman fire. I love that part because so many people in the audience don't expect it.

Don Juan is also shorter- good cause nobody catches all of it anyway, unless you're reaeeally paying attention like I do.


That's how I feel about that. That song is just so filled with tension and buildup that it is just a CRIME to cut it. UGH. NOOOO. Also the mask reaction is rushed cause the song is so rushed and I miss that. I've seen some good "Oh shit I'm touching the mask" reactions and didn't see it here.

Chandelier drop is HOLY CRAP AWESOME SCARY OMGGGGG I can't imagine sitting under it!

My sis commented that Crivello picks random, interesting places to change into his falsetto- ie "This face which earned a mother's fear and loathing" is like an octave higher than normal- being overly familiar with the original, the change was jarring and I'd have to see it more to decide how I felt, though on first impression it sounded quite pitiful and was another nice interpretation. I also like Crivello's entrance- instead of walking in like a crazy serial killer stalker like JOJ (also a good choice), Crivello wrings his hands and glances around nervously, obviously concerned that this might be taking it too far and his life is probably ruined because the mob is coming, like, now. But lover boy shows up and he gets hella pissed. At "Be my guest sir" he does what I can only describe as an 'ironic curtsy' which I found appropriately mocking.

Final lair remains largely the same, oh yeah, except for the CAGE OF DOOM. I had noticed the missing Magical Lasso scene and the hand at the level of your eyes mentioning, but I was aware of this change prior to the show. My sister was not, however, and was pleasantly surprised (read: freaked out) when the cage popped up with the blades and everything. I'm kind of a book fan and I liked the punjab reference, but let's remember this guy also had a torture chamber and that cage looks gruesome. Interesting addition. I don't know if I prefer one to the other, but it's a nice alternative interpretation.

Crivello is great at being mood-swingy- like I mentioned before, and he does a JOJ esque reaction to Christine returning, which is getting up ready to fight but softening when he realizes is Christine. Waaaah, the ring return is sad.

As Crivello is crying, Ragone is being adorable Raoul in the boat. The Phantom is crying and Raoul and Christine are reprising, and at the end Kristen buries her face in her hands and is upset- Ragone crouches down in the boat and grabs her hands to comfort her- new touch to a Raoul that I really liked.

So overall thoughts- It's a great show- Crivello is a great Phantom. He's not the best I've seen, but he makes it his own.

Ragone is an adorable Raoul. I seriously hope he comes to Broadway soon so I can see him again. I think he would be fabulous in the full show.

Hertzenberg is wonderful, both vocally and acting-wise as Christine. She's entranced in the beginning, terrified by the middle and strong by the end, both in her anger and her compassion for the Phantom.

The supporting cast is good with what limited time they have- the cuts speed the main trio's story along at the expense of the smaller, funny or character building bits. I understand the cuts, but the show, especially what is normally act 2, rushes at a thunderous pace that leaves you fighting to catch your breath because of the roller coaster of emotions. It isn't so bad that they butchered it (except PONR) but it's definitely rapid, and this is coming from someone who thinks act 2 already goes fast. Although, admittedly, getting the main story without the frills is a refreshing and interesting change of pace, and I appreciate Vegas for attempting (and succeeding) to shorten the show without losing the essence of it.

While I thought the show was brilliant and would love to have been able to see it more, I miss some of the subtleties of the original which are understandably missing. But no doubt the show lives up to its name. It truly, truly is a spectacle that everyone should see.

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