‘Phantom’ dazzles on stage

By Kelsey Shea

“The Phantom of the Opera”

The Benedum… “The Phantom of the Opera”

The Benedum Center

Now through Sept. 19

Tickets from Pitt Arts $69.63 Orchestra, $60.63 First Tier, $27.50 Second Tier

Grade: B+

It’s pretty common for live shows to slap the word “spectacular” on their playbills or advertisement posters, but few warrant the term as sincerely as the spectacle that is “The Phantom of the Opera.”

Currently headed into its last week showing live at the Benedum Center, “The Phantom of the Opera” is as close as Pittsburgh audiences will get to the true New York City Broadway experience without hopping on a train to the Big Apple. So if you’ve been putting off going to see it, this week is the time to go.

Fans of the famous musical love triangle between an opera singer, her mysterious tutor and her young suitor who were first acquainted with the 2004 on-screen adaptation won’t be disappointed. Those who have been longtime fans of the drama of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original musical score will appreciate finally seeing his work performed live.

The most striking and memorable aspect of PNC Broadway Across America’s Pittsburgh production is the elaborate stage direction and scenery. Given the limited space and resources of a theater stage, fans of the Phantom movie will be startled by how close certain scenes come to those in the film, including the boat and dungeon scenes and a larger-than-life-sized chandelier that swings over the audience.

While none of the three leads playing Raoul, the Phantom or Christine blew the audience away with truly phenomenal vocal or acting performances, all played their respective parts well. Christine, played by Trista Moldovan, overacted and flitted around the stage a bit much for my tastes, but her voice was right for the part and she gave an otherwise-errorless performance.

Without Gerard Butler’s charm coloring the role of the Phantom, I came to the realization that the Phantom is a truly creepy character. While watching the movie, I recall thinking that being trapped in a lightless dungeon for the rest of my life singing with Gerard Butler was a hardship I could endure. However, in the Butler-less stage performance, Christine’s dilemma is easier to understand from the audience’s standpoint.

“The Phantom of the Opera” is now on its farewell tour.

It  marked the beginning of the “popera” movement of wildly popular classically structured musicals. It’s been lurking around pop culture for about 20 years and is a staple on any musical-crazed kid’s iPod. The consolation prize for the Phantom’s farewell is that Webber is stewing up a sequel called “Love Never Dies.” Skeptical or not, fans who want to experience the live “Phantom” ought to hop to it this week. It won’t be back anytime soon.