Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular
Anyone who's flown into Las Vegas' McCarran Airport is familiar with Andrew Lloyd Webber's dramatic organ theme that, along with the accompanying gigantic video screens, serenades passengers as they wait for their luggage at the baggage carousels. Having just passed the two year mark, Phantom--The Las Vegas Spectacular is Sin City's version of the time-honored musical. And the 'spectacular' in this Phantom of the Opera is the scenery, costumes, lighting, and visual effects.
When the 2000 pound, $5 million chandelier danced into place in the opening scene, I thought, "Okay, that's pretty good, what else do you have?" Later in the production, the chandelier did offer a few additional surprises, but the beauty of the sets surpassed the technical gimmicks and illusions. The image of the Phantom gliding in the candlelit mist of his underground lake, the pink-hued set of the comic, Baroque opera scene, the gilded exterior of the Paris Opera House and its interior staircase resplendent with the costumed figures of the masked ball--the visual impact was stunning.
The theater itself is adorned with two tiers of side boxes filled with 80 life-sized mannequins dressed in 19th-century attire. I became so accustomed to all of the special effects, I found my eyes drifting over to see if one of them would move, but they were apparently just regular dummies. The Phantom, however, was on the move throughout the production, entering and exiting scenes in dramatic and unexpected ways.
In the title role, Anthony Crivello gave an impassioned interpretation of the misunderstood Phantom lurking in the bowels of the opera house. Sure, he may have murdered a few people along the way, but he did it for his art, and of course because his face was horribly disfigured. (And the mask he used to cover his facial abnormality makes a great souvenir refrigerator magnet, available in the gift shop.) As for the singing, Crivello's voice deftly modulated from the raspy, angry Phantom to the fragile, sensitive spirit, who seemed almost human in his relationship with his young protegee Christine. The drama follows the budding starlet from her initial audition to a performance of a rather modern work written by the Phantom himself. Kristi Holden began her interpretation quite tentatively, and didn't get comfortable in the role until the rooftop scene in which she started to deliver some nice singing with the duet "All I Ask of You." Perhaps Miss Holden was inspired by her vocal partner Andrew Ragone in the role of Raoul, opera patron and love-interest. His velvety voice commanded an immediate presence from his first short utterance through his more extended singing in his featured songs.
When reducing the musical to fit into the usual Las Vegas format of a 90 minute production without intermission, Webber along with Harold Prince, Director of both the Broadway and Vegas versions, kept in all of the songs from the original score. And, musically and dramatically, the show works. While the tunes are melodious and enjoyable to listen to, they can get repetitive in longer versions. In Las Vegas, my only temptation when a familiar tune recapitulated was to yell down to the orchestra pit, "This time with feeling!" Luckily, the Phantom had enough emotion to carry the day, even during the intimate moments when the white noise of the air conditioning blower fought to dominate the air space. (I guess the production put so much into the chandelier, they had to go to Cosco for their air conditioner.) nd upon entering the theater, I observed many Vegas regulars searching bewilderedly for the ubiquitous showroom cup holder, here (thankfully) not to be found. So, if you find yourself in Las Vegas and want to see a spectacular musical or a musical spectacular, head over to the Venetian Hotel, try not to focus too closely on the pit, bring a sweater, even if it's still over 100 degrees at curtain, and enjoy the show.
Phantom of the Opera plays at the Venetian Resort, Monday through Saturday at 7 pm, with additional 9:30 pm performances on Monday and Saturday. Tickets at 702-414-9000, the Venetian Box Office or online (www.phantomlasvegas.com).