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Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom [email protected]

The Florida State College of Jacksonville Broadway Artist Series, as part of its celebration of fifty years of presenting outstanding theatre, has brought the new “Phantom of the Opera” to the Times-Union Center in downtown Jacksonville. The production opened on February 10th, 2016 and will remain on stage through February 21st in the Moran Theatre. For ticket information, call (904) 442-2929 or visit fscjartistseries.org.

As we approached the TU Center for Friday’s performance, we saw one of the large tractor trailers used to transport costumes and sets. The side displayed the musical’s now iconic logo, along with large letters that advised patrons to “TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND BE PREPARED TO BE DAZZLED!” And we truly were dazzled, as you will also be, so don’t miss it.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA 6 - Katie Travis and Chris Mann - photo Matthew MurphyAs we write this, we don’t know if you are among the 130 million theatre goers worldwide who have seen this show, which has been on Broadway for 26 years. If yes, you may be wondering what is “new.” Phantom’s story, adapted from Gaston Leroux’s novel remains essentially the same, with some changes in tone and character. However, you will find this production has exciting new choreography and orchestration. It is passionately acted and gorgeously designed. The set is a wonder to behold, with a two-story revolving structure in center stage that swiftly becomes the ornate owner’s office, and evolves into the ballroom, the backstage, and the Phantom’s underground hideaway.

The costumes are spectacular and breathtaking. And while any version of this musical requires the famous chandelier, in this production it becomes a part of the play very early, with a dramatic drop at the end of the first act.

The musical features a cast of some forty incredibly talented singers and dancers. The three THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA 14 - Storm Lineberger - photo Matthew Murphyleads, Chris Mann (The Phantom), Katie Travis (Christine), and Storm Lineberger (Raoul), all have voices that soar. The orchestra under the direction of Dale Rieiling plays the score with the elegance which it demands. We caught every note with the magnificent sound system. The lighting is equally as galvanizing and astonishing.

We have seen many Artist Series musicals over the years, as have many other North Florida patrons. Technical advances in lighting, sound, and construction materials make today’s musicals a high-quality experience, and, as exemplified by this road show production, result in shows as splendid as if audience members were seeing them on Broadway.

The Phantom of the Opera is a musical that transports the audience into a different world that could only exist in theatre. “The Music of the Night,” the most famous song, is one that will linger with you long after you have left the theatre.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.