Phantom at the Orpheum: A Must See!

phantom photoThe Phantom of the Opera, I can’t even say the name without the song and score ringing in my head “the Phantom of the Opera is here…”, the longest running show in Broadway history has come to Minneapolis.
The Theatre: 
The Orpheum Theatre is truly the place for this iconic production. The 1921 Beaux Arts style theatre was beautifully restored 1993 after being purchased from Bob Dylan in 1988. What better place host Phantom than the country’s largest vaudeville house of its time, whose first performers included the Marx BrothersGeorge Burns, and Fanny Brice? It was also one of Minneapolis’s major cinema houses, screening Gone with the Wind (1940) to sold out houses for three straight weeks, and one that set a record screening first run engagements of nine Best Picture Oscar winners from 1953-1972 including The Godfather. After the $10 million restoration, this icon of Minneapolis has originated pre-Broadway productions of Victor/Victoria and The Lion King. Oh and did I mention it boasts its own grand chandelier weighing in at 2,000 pounds and stretching to 15 feet hanging in the main auditorium.
The Musical:
Based on the French novel by Gaston Leroux, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical score, along with Charles Hart’s lyrics, weaves the tale of a disfigured musical genius who becomes obsessed with a beautiful soprano (Christine).
The Production and Staging:
Cameron MacKintosh’s new production of Phantom is truly spectacular. The set is grand and technically genius (thank you Paul Brown), from the stairs that appear and hover in the air to the entire shell opening and revolving to transform scene to scene, it is amazing that all of the walls can fit on the stage yet have it feel so large. The curtains, fog machines, backdrops, and lighting make you believe you are watching a fantasy movie instead of a live theatre show (blue screen computer special effects, pshah, we don’t need you!), the technical department has outdone themselves on this one. The entire design team came together to produce a magical believable world worthy of Hollywood. Maria Björnson’s costumes were perfection, and Christine Rowland did a fantastic job of continuing her vision and brilliance.
The Cast:
Julia Udine as Christine was amazing, her voice was so smooth I could have listened to her sing all day, she physically and emotionally embodied Christine, her transition from ingénue to woman throughout the performance was nuanced but powerful. Mark Campbell’s Phantom was so emotional raw he really brought the phantom from character to living breathing being, he came alive. The entire cast had wonderful chemistry and incredibly rich voices. The only slight annoyance was the timing during the large multi-singer, multi-song numbers seemed rushed and didn’t really build to its crescendo but was at the peak throughout which made the majority of the words hard to understand. Also the musical staging and ballet choreography was beautiful, simple elegance to enhance the story but not detract or over shadow it; Scott Ambler’s work is wonderful.
The Review:
The cast was sublime perfection; the production was in a word, spectacular; this show is a must see. Thank you to the Hennepin Theatre Trust for bringing it to Minneapolis.
Running now through Jan 5th, 2014 at The Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.