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posted: 1/27/2014 4:38 PM

Short and Sweet Review: Phantom of the Opera

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  • Video: Phantom of the Opera

By Broadway in Chicago; Video Production by Tribeca Flashpoint Academy

Critic for the day, Terri Penas of Bartlett, was able to draw upon her experiences in theater and as a musician to provide a unique perspective of The Phantom of the Opera. Penas, who works for Northern Trust in Chicago, works as a hobby with Spotlight Youth Theater in Cary, helping with technical aspects and lighting. She is also a bassist and frequently plays in pit orchestras for local productions. Penas was impressed by the music, sets, and lighting, noting in particular the use of a single french horn and an electric guitar to give a full and slight contemporary feel to the music.

Review by Diana Martinez

A fresh new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera is making its US premiere this year, taking up residence at the Cadillac Palace now through March 2. The show, staged by director Laurence Connor, features all the original gorgeous costumes and an innovative set design. Julia Udine shies in the starring role of Christine Daae with her warm and powerful voice, and Cooper Grodin plays the man behind the mask. The story is based on the legend of a disfigured man who lived deep in the cellars of the Paris Opera House. He was obsessed with Christine, a young chorus girl, and lured her to his lair, by teaching her to sing beautifully. He went on to terrorize the opera company, forcing them to abide his demands and debut his protégé. However, his plan to conquer her love hit a snag when Christine's first love appeared at her debut performance, leading the two of the to reconnect, outraging the already unstable Phantom.

My guest audience critic was Daily Herald reader, Terri Penas of Bartlett. This was the first time she had heard the music to Phantom of the Opera, let alone seen the show. She was very taken with the show, and the friend who accompanied her was able to explain the differences in this new production. We both thought that the new instrumentation and addition of electric guitar really added a cool sound to the score in some places. I thought the direction also had a bit more of a contemporary vibe putting forward a much more assertive and engaging Christine then I had seen previously. The acting was very strong in this production and the managers did a wonderful job of finding the humor and pace, delivering great comic moments.

Having seen more than a dozen productions of The Phantom of the Opera from London to Broadway, I think I was most Impressed by the great directing choices, such as the shadow effect in the scene where Madam Giry explains how the Phantom was abused as a child and sold to the freak show. As she narrates his tragic story, the moment is simultaneously shadowed in a dramatic visual. Other highlights include the addition of staircase steps that appear to disappear as the Phantom descends in to the catacombs, and a new, manager's office set.

The opening night audience gave the show a standing ovation that went on for three company bows, showing their approval and enthusiasm for this new rendition of the beloved musical. This classic, epic tale is as compelling and timeless as ever, and you will love hearing this gorgeous score on stage once again. The show runs two and a half hours with an intermission. The Phantom of the Opera plays at the Cadillac Palace Theatre through March 2. It's a hot ticket, so order yours early.

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