by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
The Phantom is back and will be residing at the Alhambra Theatre and Dining, 12000 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville, Florida until November 25, 2012. No, this is not the Andrew Lloyd Webber “Phantom” that is still on Broadway after many years. The Alhambra’s production is the Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit creation, and is more of a musical than the operatic Weber composition. The Dual Critics have seen the Yeston and Kopit version several times and found it captivating.
Director/ Producer Tod Booth has assembled outstanding singers in the leading roles as well in the many supporting roles.
Xander Chauncey who plays the Phantom has a wonderful singing voice and the vocal range to handle this demanding role. He has done roles in many musicals, including appearances at the Alhambra in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Footloose,” and “Christmas Carole.” Ladies, he is quite handsome, but you won’t discover this prior to the curtain call unless you read the playbill. You see, he does wear a mask throughout the entire show.
Lindsay Sutton, making her debut at the Alhambra as the demure and lovely Christine who becomes the Phantom’s voice student, is excellent. Her voice is pure in tone, sweet and delightful. She was as enchanting at the last moment as when she first appeared.
Matthew Wojtal has a wonderful voice and physical presence as Count Philippe Chadon who discovers Christine singing in the streets of Paris. Steve Osborn is a very distinguished Gerald Carriere, long time manager of the opera, who knows the real secrets of this haunted place. In Act II, The Phantom and Carriere sing one of the most moving duets of the musical.
Lisa Valdini reprises the role of the diva Carlotta, a role she has done on this stage in the past. Carlotta, who is the new owner of the opera, is Christine’s nemesis and Valdini uses her marvelously adaptable voice to laugh, hoot, whine, and screech, while sparkling with humor. Joining her as her husband and co-owner of the opera is Alaine Cholet, played by the ever popular and funny Gary Marachek who over the years has done over 30 productions on this stage.
In addition to musical direction, Alhambra Resident Musical Director Michael Ursua also created the outstanding musical recordings.
Set Designer Dave Dionne had to keep things mobile since there are two dozen or so scene changes, but the sets are elaborate enough to give the feeling of a French opera house and its vintage splendor. The sets include the main stage of the opera house framed by pillars, an office filled with bookshelves, a dressing room, and a lively Paris bistro.
The Alhambra even has the foggy canal and small boat that the Phantom navigates as he take Christine to his underground dwelling beneath the Opera House. For those of you familiar with this musical, yes, there is the famous dropping crystal chandelier, done in a very spectacular manner.
The costumes by The Costume Crew (Camala Pitts and Dorinda Quiles) feature some wonderful dresses on the ladies and transported us back to 1901 Paris. The gowns included ruffles and laces, in a range of lovely colors, while the men appeared in restrained business suits or formal wear.
The story behind the Phantom is one that appears in literature often but has much greater impact when staged. Here we have the disfigured Phantom who hides from the public. He wants to know love but does not know how to accomplish this. Then we have the innocent but talented ingénue Christine who seeks guidance to find herself and develop her talent. The combination is the explosive love story of “Phantom . . . The Musical.”
The show makes excellent use of the Alhambra’s space. As an ensemble, the cast was picture perfect. We know you will like the intimate setting of the Alhambra which allows you to get into the story. Phantom has a bit of everything including beauty, ugliness, saintliness, subterfuge, immorality, innocence, evil and criminality. There is enough of all of these to keep your attention riveted on the action on the stage. You may not walk out humming any of the songs other than the opening number “Mélodie de Paris,” but you will find the music outstanding and well performed. Rounding out the cast are: Jason Nettle, Tony Dietterick, David Tanciar, Kenneth Uibel, Erik DeCicco, Dominic Windsor, Mark Poppleton, Laurie Bloom, Shay Cambre, Kristianna Jones, Rachel Schimenti and Daniella Newton.
Thanks to cast and crew for an entertaining evening of theater, a rare one since it is not often the leading character is such an engaging anti-hero. Don’t miss the experience of this” Phantom.” Call 641-1212 or visit www.alhambrajax.com to check the seating chart and reserve online.
Since the Dual Critics started mentioned the food in our reviews several months ago, we have heard from some readers who like this feature, since the excellent food and service are very much a part of the Alhambra experience as are the quality productions. For Phantom, Chef DeJuan Roy is offering a four course meal with Chili Shrimp or Sweet Italian Sausage for the first course, followed by a choice of She Crab Bisque or Arugula Salad. For the main course your choices are Seafood Newburg served in a puff pastry, Slow Roasted Prime Rib, Crispy Duck Confit with a Mango Glaze or Whole Wheat Pasta Primavera. For desert, you’ll have your choice of Lemon Blackberry Cheesecake or Death by Chocolate Cake.
What is coming up at the Alhambra? On October 15 at 10 am, the first of several performances of “The Ugly Ducking” for the younger set.” Doors open at 10 am; kids can bring their own brown bag lunch to eat after the show.
On Halloween, October 31, The Phantom will taking the day off. On stage for one night only will be a Halloween themed murder mystery show, for those 18 and over. Costumes are encouraged (but not mandatory) with prizes to be awarded, and a special menu is being planned as well.
On stage following the Phantom, and running November 28 to December 24, is the musical “White Christmas.” If you want to see this show, we would advise you to immediately dial 641-1212 and reserve because it is already 80% sold out and it is not even the end of October.
Finally, if you are thinking about New Years Eve, the Dual Critics can recommend the Alhambra. This year’s show will be exciting with “Ring of Fire – The Johnny Cash Musical Show.” You will have the pleasure of doubling your eating pleasure and fun by having two Alhambra meals in an evening instead of just one. The regular meal will be served before the show and then after midnight, a delicious breakfast will be available to start the New Year off right. We attended last year and it was memorable.
PHANTOM . . . THE MUSICAL
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM