Haunting Love Story

Arthur Kopit’s and Maury Yeston’s musical “Phantom” bewitches audiences as an operatic ghost story — one that delivers passion and humor.

“Phantom” isn’t to be confused with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera.” It came to the stage in January 1991, five years after Webber’s musical became a smash hit. Though “Phantom” never became the Broadway hit to match its predecessor, it has appeared in theaters around the world.

The musicals share similar names — they’re both adapted from the Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel — but have slightly different plots.

This local production combines heartfelt passion with musical talent and a little sense of humor.

Fans of “The Phantom of the Opera” will recognize some staples of the novel, including the naïveté of Christine Daaé, the dangerous, swinging chandelier and the foggy labyrinth.

The songs aren’t the same as the renowned Broadway musical, but that doesn’t mean these are inferior. Some are catchy, and others are purely emotional. Many in the audience clapped just as enthusiastically at the light songs like “Melodie de Paris,” sung by most of the ensemble in the setting of a bistro, as they did to more serious ones like “My Mother Bore Me,” sung by the Phantom in his lowest state.

The story of “Phantom” takes place in the Paris Opera House. It centers on two main characters intertwined in a love story: street-singer Christine, played by Lindsay Sutton, and Erik the Phantom, played by Xander Chauncey.

Sutton and Chauncey are paired quite well together. Their chemistry throughout the musical is outstanding, and their voices harmonize beautifully. In their duets from Act I, “Home” and “You are Music,” Chauncey’s strong, deep tones underscore Sutton’s sweet yet powerful voice.

Lisa Valdini humorously plays Carlotta, the new diva and owner of the opera house. While in character, Valdini’s role is to sing in a strong, operatic voice with errors spread throughout each song. Her song “This Place is Mine” resembles a fusion of a roller coaster that has unexpected drops and “The Mob Song” from “Beauty and the Beast.”

In addition to the songs, the plot also differs from “The Phantom of the Opera.” The character of Raoul is replaced with Phillipe, the Count De Chadon, who seems cocky at first but eventually falls in love with Christine and seemingly softens near the end.

The overall theme is not as dark as the other version. All of the characters, including the Phantom at times, are light. The theatergoer gets a closer look into the Phantom’s past and his relationship with Gérard Carrière, the head of the opera house. And, if you think you know the ending, prepare to be taken down an unexpected path.

The Alhambra’s staging is splendid. From the colorful gowns to the ballet number near the end, from Sutton’s talented voice to Chauncey’s passionate-yet-grief-stricken Phantom, this show will captivate you until the end.

Granted, the stage is small and therefore, sets are few and can be changed only so often. But every scene leaves you waiting for the next one. The energy of the cast doesn’t disappoint.

Alhambra’s cuisine has made great strides with Executive Chef DeJuan Roy taking over in November 2011. From the citrus chili shrimp to the she crab bisque to the crispy duck confit with a mango glaze, Roy delivered all the way to dessert – lemon blackberry cheesecake or Death by ?Chocolate cake.

While this musical might be more challenging than “Hello Dolly” or “White Christmas” (which happens to be coming to the Alhambra this winter), its beauty is found in deep romance and dark mysteries.

Cassidy Roddy