MUST SEEREVIEWSTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Phantom of the Opera – 2016 National Tour

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Lyrics by Charles Hart.

Book by Richard Stilgoe & Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Directed by Laurence Connor.

Music Direction by Richard Carsey.

Choreography by Scott Ambler.

 Stunning staging and an impressive multilevel set plus new young voices give this spirited National tour of the Phantom of the Opera a sweeping panorama.

One of Cameron Mackintoch’s secrets for long running show, particularly national tours is to keep production qualities high and keep finding new fresh voices keep the show ‘live’ and energetic. This current National Tour of The Phantom of the Opera has all those ingredients.

The Phantom of the Opera overwhelmed me once again with its stagecraft, its melodic score and its wonderful singing. I enjoyed this production. The opening night audience gave it a roaring standing ovation that was amazing since it was playing Chicago for the eight time! Worldwide, over 130 million people have see Phantom of the Opera in the more than 90,000 performances; there are currently 6 productions running worldwide.

With worldwide box office sales of over $5.6 billion (the highest in history) Phantom is the most successful venture of the 20th Century, surpassing such blockbuster films as Titanic, E. T. and Star Wars. Now 26 years old on Broadway, winner of seven Tony Awards (including Best Musical), Phantom is the longest-running show ever on Broadway passing Cats record of 7,486 performances on January 9, 2006- Phantom has played to over 10,800 and counting!

I believe Phantom survives because of a combination of a hauntingly beautiful score sung well by the entire cast encased in fantastic sets, costumes, lights, sounds, falling chandeliers and pyrotechnics presented in a breathtakingly illuminating showcase. Quality control by producer Cameron Mackintosh demands that each production live up to the highest standard thus assuring audiences that of worthy entertainment. Phantom has all the extravagant trappings necessary for the spectacle that makes The Phantom of the Opera the phenomena it has become.

At $140 for the main floor seats, Phantom is a bargain for what is presented.   There are 52 Equity cast and orchestra members, 97 crew members, 22 scene changes, 230 costumes, 22 scene changes, a 10-foot chandelier, 479 lighting instruments, a radio-controlled boat, 2700 feet of curtain draperies and computer controlled fog with Baroque proscenium frames that catapults us into the 1880’s Paris Opera House. Similar to Lion King, Phantom combines spectacle with a powerful operatic score and outstanding performers to produce a fantastic night of entertainment.

Everybody probably knows this by now, but just for the record: Phantom is more opera than conventional musical, with very little spoken dialog. The book, by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber, combines the major story line of the disfigured Phantom’s doomed and destructive love for the soprano Christine with some satirical jabs at the foibles of opera and theatre in general. Charles Hart and Stilgoe are credited with the lyrics, which, like both the book and Leroux’s novel, are serviceable without resembling High Art in any way. And, of course, production designer Maria Bjornson provides eye-popping costumes, sets, and stage magic. It’s quite literally the icing on the cake – tasty, but not necessary. But the new set design by Paul Brown  is an eye-poping large scale that does justice to a show about an opera house in the mid 19th Century Paris.

That’s because Lloyd Webbers music is ultimately what makes Phantom work so well and what brings audiences back in droves. This lyrical, dramatic, and intelligent score is, in many ways, one of Webber’s best. He manages to both make fun of and pay homage to 18th and 19th-century opera conventions while still producing popular songs such as “Music of the Night” and “All I Ask of You’ and “Wishing you Were Somehow Here Again.”

Derrick Davis, as the Phantom, emphasizes the mad and melodramatic side of the Phantom without stepping over the line into parody as he sang wonderfully hitting all the tenor ranges demanded in the score. His operatic tenor made him the finest performer to sing the Phanton that I’ve heard.  ( Kate Travis, as Christine, just stepped into the role here in Chicago. She was entrancing and sensual and sounded terrific. Travis clear perfect soprano was a joy to hear. Her acting was truthful and precise. Jordan Craig, as Raoul, possesses charm and his ringing baritone  sounded heavenly.

The large ensemble delivered “Masquerade” in such a grandiose manner highlighting the opulence of 19th Century Paris. I was struck by the wall-to-wall outstanding voices singing worthy of an opera company. The Phantom of the Opera is an entertaining and well-crafted diversion. It doesn’t raise any important issues and there’s no subtext – what you see is what you get – but it does have the same mix of humor and melodrama that characterized Leroux’s original novel.

Amazingly, Phantom still holds up as fine entertainment. Put your mind on hold, suspend disbelief, and enjoy this big bon-bon of a show. You’ll leave the Palace humming the tunes, which is a sign that the show hit its mark. This is how all touring shows should be – Equity talent with all the necessary stage craft.

Highly Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: December 16, 2016.

For more info checkout The Phantom of the Opera  page at

At the Palace Theatre,151 W. Randolph, Chicago, call 800-775-2000,, tickets $50 – $140 Tuesdays at 7:30 pm, Wednesdays at 2 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30 pm. Saturdays at 2 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm with some Sunday evenings at 7:30 pm. running time is 2 hours, 50 minutes with intermission, through January 8, 2017.