‘Phantom of the Opera’ breaks modern day set design norms



Photo courtesy of Jack Hartin. The “Phantom of the Opera” cast taking their final bow at the end of the performance.

COD’s Performing Arts presented their spring musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” on May 3-5 at the McCallum Theater.

In the musical, “The Phantom of the Opera,” directed by professor of music, Dr. Darlene Romano, opera singer Christine Daae is caught in between wanting the help of a talented and alluring but disturbed man called the Phantom, and being free to be with the man she loves.

The Phantom is a disfigured man living below the opera house and requires the owners of the house to follow his rules or else. When new owners take over and refuse to follow his rules, the Phantom makes it clear that he is not to be messed with when he starts attempting to kill the cast. Throughout the play, he tutors Christina to help her get leading roles in the play, but when she falls in love with an old friend and benefactor of the opera house, Raoul, the Phantom is willing to commit sinister acts to keep Christine for himself.

Romano directed the first musical performed at the McCallum over 40 years ago. She said, “These performances will be concert versions of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, which [encompasses] the entire show with minimal staging and the cast in formal wear rather than costumes. There will be lots of eye candy: fog, lighting, video projections, masks and the crashing chandelier from Phantom’s national tour, but some visual aspects will be left to the imagination.”

Photo courtesy of Jack Hartin. Sarah Elizabeth Combs as Christine Daae and Jason Livesay as the Phantom.

“As for ticket sales, a total of 3200 folks attended the four performances. The Sunday matinee was completely sold out,” said Romano.

The staging was creatively portrayed by an ever-changing screen at the back of the stage. The video projections on the screen effectively replaced the need for a set. For example, when the Phantom took Christine into his lair below the opera house, the picture on the screen shifted downward to show them descending into the catacombs below.

“Minimal staging,” the words used by Romano, might make one curious or even prevent one from going to see the play, however, the clever use of the video projections succeeded beyond expectations. The screen had the ability to change sets in seconds without the need for expensive set design.

Also, a number of objects were lowered onto the stage from the scaffolding above to quickly bring in and remove set pieces. The chandelier was one example. It rose to the top of the stage at the beginning of the play in a dramatic moment of disorienting lights and music.

As Romano has mentioned, all the cast wore black formal attire aside from Christine who wore a white gown. The choice to put Christina in white as opposed to black made her stand out as the lead female and portrayed her innocence.

The cast was played by Jason Livesay as The Phantom, John Helms as Raoul, and Sarah Elizabeth Combs stood in for Natalie Mann for the role of Christine Daae. Other important roles were played by Michelle Fiore as Carlotta Giudicelli, Katrina Dixon as Madame Giry, and Marianne Capetz as Meg Giry.

Photo courtesy of Jack Hartin. The 28-piece orchestra performing on stage.

An impressive 28-piece orchestra sat on stage behind the actors. The orchestra, comprised of some COD professors, was an amazing addition that brought the play to life. The orchestra added drama and succeeding in giving the audience a feeling of tension and impending danger. The cast and the orchestra were well-integrated with one another on the stage. The actors preformed in front of and behind the orchestra without any flaws.

The songs were operatic, relating to or a characteristic of opera, so they might not have been keen to every ear. The singing was very impressive for those who can appreciate it. Combs voice had the light, airy beautiful qualities similar to a princess. Fiore was an opera pro with the ability to hit unimaginable notes and throw her voice across the theater.

Check out the Performing Arts next musical, The Addams Family, in Fall 2019.

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