Dallas — Cameron Mackintosh’s redesigned The Phantom of the Opera jumps starts Dallas Summer Musicals’ newest season at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Directed by Laurence Connor, it maintains the story adapted from Gaston Leroux’s 1909 novel. The 1980s brainchild of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber (who cowrote the book with Richard Stilgoe and supplied music and orchestrations) is currently the longest running Broadway show. This newer version came to Dallas in 2014 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, but it’s the first time DSM has it and a fitting end to a year which also included the sequel Love Never Dies.
The bulk of the tale happens in the 1880s, at the height of Paris’ Opera Populare, which is based on the famous Paris Opera House. Christine Daae (Eva Tavares) soars to the leading role in the company’s latest production, an achievement attributed to a faceless man obsessed with her and her voice. This teacher later reveals himself to be the Phantom of the Opera (Quentin Oliver Lee), a disfigured man living beneath the opera house who makes absurd demands on the owners and causes chaos when said demands are not met. The new patron, Raoul (Jordan Craig), also vies for Christine’s heart, and she must make a life-or-death decision for her sake and that of Raoul.
Iconic songs (with lyrics by Charles Hart and additional lyrics by Stilgoe) find both success and weakness with the leading characters. Tavares delivers moments of desperation and sadness with a beautifully heartbreaking quality, but several moments break the late nineteenth-century Parisian mood. Awkward pronunciation proves a bit jarring at times, and her perkiness in “Think of Me” doesn’t fit the aura of a period opera.
Lee’s imposing, dramatic presence serves him well as Phantom, and notably, he’s only the fourth African-American to ever play the role. Vocals stand up well much of the time, although he fails to support some critical notes. Craig presents the most consistent performance.
The ballet chorus maneuvers well through Scott Ambler’s choreography, while the vocal ensemble displays clarity and unity in their sections.
With so much literary and historical material to work from, Mackintosh and the design team craft a remarkably intricate touring set. Paul Brown’s set design seamlessly jumps from scene to scene, displaying a multitude of hues and moods. The chandelier, although absolutely stunning, loses its impact since they took away the journey from stage to ceiling and back again. Fortunately, Maria Björnson’s elaborate costume designs remain unchanged and have always been a highlight of the production.
The show runs about two-and-a-half hours with an intermission. Considering its popularity and the long show run into the first part of 2019, the crowds will likely continue throughout its time in Dallas.