Monday, October 2, 2017

Phantom—Brunish Theatre—downtown Portland

Music of the Night

This musical production has music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and book by Arthur Kopit, based on the very good novel, “Phantom of the Opera” by Gaston Leroux.  It is directed by Jon Kretzu, musical direction & conducting by Valery Saul and choreography by Sara Parker.  It is produced by Stumptown Stages at the above space, 1111 SW Broadway (4th Floor), through October 15th.  For more information, go to their site at

This story has been through a few incarnations, including the famous Tony-award winner of a few years back.  Of course there was the silent, very effective version, with Lon Chaney, Sr., in the 20’s, the 40’s one with Claude Rains, the 60’s with Herbert Lom and an awful one with Robert Englund later on.  Of course it is really a remixing of the Beauty and the Beast story, also by a Frenchman.  This one goes more into the back-story of Erik.  But the actual book has never been truly explored on stage or screen, as it includes a major character, cut from subsequent versions, called simply, the Persian.  I recommend reading it.

This musical is not as memorable as its big brother but does have some good songs, terrific singers and a great chorus.  It is also told in a bit of a lighter tone (although a couple of characters do actually get killed).  It seems the Paris Opera House has a ghost who dwells, they say, in the underground mazes of the theater.  If you appease him, then things will run fine.  The rules are simple, he has to have his own private box, approve the singers and selection of operas for the Season, and never enter his domain.  Pretty straightforward, I’d say.  If all is to his liking, then the Season will run smoothly.

But, at this juncture of the story, the old manger of the house, Carriére (Gregory Brumfield), is being forcibly retired by their demanding diva, Carlotta (Elizabeth Hadley), and her mousey husband, Cholet (Sean Dodder), now the new manager.  But on the horizon is a fresh, young street singer, Christine (Laura McCulloch), who catches the attention (and the eye) of Count Philippe (Jesse Studenberg), a wealthy benefactor of the Opera, and directs her to be hired by them, which she is but as a costumer, not a singer.

This does not please Philippe, nor Erik, the Phantom (Pip Kennedy), who has heard her sing and is also smitten with her.  And if Erik is displeased…well, look out.  A couple of murders happen, some disruption of the Opera operations, a kidnapping and finally Erik is forced to take matters into his own hands…and it will not be pretty.  More I cannot tell you without ruining the story but know that, as I said, some of Erik’s past is revealed.

The simple staging by scenic designer, Demetri Pavlatos, to turn such a small space into a variety of playing areas is quite clever.  And the beautiful costumes, especially for the ladies, by designer, Margaret Louise Chapman, are amazing.  Lighting designer, Mark LaPierre, has some very expressive lighting, both for mood and set areas.  Choreography in such a limited space, especially of the chorus numbers, by Parker, is very effective.  Saul and her orchestra do justice to the score and do not overwhelm the singers.  Kretzu has done a remarkable job of casting, and developing an expansive story into compact surroundings, allowing our imaginations to create the rest.

I don’t know how, Kirk Mouser (Managing Artistic Director), finds all these remarkable singers for his productions, but he does it well.  McCulloch as Christine has a voice that would blow the top off the stage.  “Home” and “You Are Music” (w/Kennedy) being her highlights.  Truly a gifted young lady.  Hadley also was quite impressive as her foil, being both sad and humorous, as well as an accomplished singer.  “This Place Is Mine” being a standout number for her.  And Brumfield, as the ex-manager, has one of the best numbers in the show, “You Are My Own,” great voice and a very touching song.  And, as mentioned, the chorus numbers are also very impressive.

I recommend this show.  If you do see it, please tell then Dennis sent you.

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