Performing Arts

Review: ‘Phantom of the Opera’ at the Arsht

Katie Travis and Chris Mann star in ‘Phantom of the Opera’ at the Arsht Center.
Katie Travis and Chris Mann star in ‘Phantom of the Opera’ at the Arsht Center.

The Phantom of the Opera has returned to menace and entertain South Florida yet again, this time in the Ziff Ballet Opera House at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

And what an appropriate venue it is: Phantom, Broadway’s longest-running production (it’s closing in on 11,700 performances since 1988), combines musical theater with bits of ballet and opera, all art forms showcased at the Ziff.

What’s now onstage at the Arsht, however, isn’t director Harold Prince’s seductive, haunting original take on the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Charles Hart musical. Miamians are experiencing original producer Cameron Mackintosh’s new take on the show, a touring production that played Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center (which opened with Phantom 25 years ago) in late 2014.

The current starring trio — former Voice finalist Chris Mann as the Phantom, Katie Travis as the beautiful soprano Christine Daaé and Storm Lineberger as her childhood friend-turned-suitor Raoul — moved into their roles just after the official opening night in Broward, so they’ve been playing their parts for more than 15 months on the road.

All have the vocal chops to handle Lloyd Webber’s oh-so-familiar songs: Mann soaring and yearning on Music of the Night, Mann and Travis amping up the drama on the title song and The Point of No Return, Travis and Lineberger declaring their love as they duet on All I Ask of You. None of the three is going to erase memories of some of the greatest singers who have played the roles (Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, anyone?). But Mann, Travis and Lineberger do their parts and the music justice, as do Jacquelynnne Fontaine as the diva Carlotta and Phumzile Sojola as the temperamental tenor Piangi.

Still, Phantom purists may leave the Arsht wondering just how an admittedly melodramatic beauty-and-the-beast story became quite so kitschy. Director Laurence Connor gets the credit (or blame) for that. Prince’s more subtle creation suggests Christine feels a push-pull of revulsion and fascination for the Phantom. Now, Mann (sporting a rock star hairpiece) literally sweeps Travis off her feet and deposits the sleepy object of his desire on the fancy bed in his watery, candlelit lair. Too much of the frisson of fear has been drained from the show.

Though the late Maria Björnson’s gorgeous costumes have been retained, the new production’s look is more lavish and complex. Set designer Paul Brown and lighting designer Paule Constable have created a brightly ornate onstage world and eerie backstage one for the Phantom’s home, the Paris Opera House of the late 19th century. The environment suggests the damaged title character’s way with fiery magic, puzzles and architectural trickery.

And yes, the famous over-sized chandelier hangs perilously over the audience near the front of the orchestra section, ready for the mad musical genius to engineer one of the show’s best-known dramatic moments.

The Phantom of the Opera remains a hugely popular piece of musical theater, as enduring a draw for New York tourists as visits to the Empire State Building or Statue of Liberty. The touring Phantom, though, is a less compelling and (for the best seats in the house) pricier reinvention.

If You Go

What: ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart.

Where: Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday, through March 6.

Cost: $39 to $225.

Information: 305-949-6722 or www.arshtcenter.org.

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