The Phantom of the Opera

Rated 4.0 When the Sacramento Community Center gets all dolled up, it can look just like a Grand Old Parisian Opera House. Well, a pseudo-grand opera house. And for the next three weeks, that’s just what the Community Center Theater will be with gorgeous scarlet curtains, a gilded proscenium, massive yards of drapes, a cornucopia of golden angels, scores of twinkling candles and one precariously swinging crystal chandelier.Which can mean only one thing—the Masked Man has returned. It’s true—Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera just pulled in to the Capital City, and for Phantom-heads, it’s time to rejoice.

For some, The Phantom is an overwrought, plodding, cloying and cumbersome Webber super-spectacle disguised as theater—a Phantom menace, if you will. Others see it as the theatrical event of a lifetime. These Phantom-heads live and breathe Phantomonia, reciting how many times and places they’ve seen this mega-musical extravaganza. The ultimate, of course, is bragging rights to having witnessed a performance by God himself, the omnipresent Michael Crawford.

If you don’t already know which group you belong in, try the Webber drill. Just get a copy of The Phantom soundtrack or any other Webber sound-alike musical such as CATS, Jesus Christ Superstar or Evita, and if it’s your cup of tea, this Phantom’s for you.

The story is intriguing. A bitter masked madman haunts the catacombs of the 1880s Paris Opera House, creating havoc and mayhem for singers, actors, backstage crews and theater management. All fear his power and presence, especially during live operatic performances. But the doomed disfigured Phantom falls in love with a young ingenue understudy, the beautiful Christine, and primes her for diva takeover. When his plans go astray, everyone’s gonna pay.

Say what you will about Webber’s take on this old story, what you can’t dispute is the musical maestro’s high-quality production company, the one responsible for the current national touring company. Webber’s production team delivers a most impressive, professional-level road-show. Here in Sacramento, we’re used to seeing scaled-down versions of top-quality shows—productions-lite with embarrassingly meager sets and costumes like the ones last seen in South Pacific. But with this Phantom, there’s no skimping on talent, sets, costumes or special effects.

The talented cast includes a powerful yet sympathetic Brad Little as the Phantom, the captivating Rebecca Pitcher as Christine, and the impressive Tim Martin Gleason as the lover Raoul. And supporting them under all the special effects are gifted opera and musical theater singers and dancers. The elaborate costumes are gorgeous to behold, the sets magnificent to witness, and the special effects worth the price alone. The only thing that mars this production is bad acoustics that muffle many of the lyrics. But overall, this is a production that will fill the senses and soothe the souls of Phantom-heads and soon-to-be Phantom-heads alike.