Seattle Gets New Touring Production Of The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera in Seattle

Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera returns to Seattle’s Paramount Theatre August 8 – 19. With newly reinvented staging and scenic design, this version of Phantom is performed by a cast and orchestra of 52, making this one of the largest productions on tour in North America.

Broadway’s favorite masked man is back.

Based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a mysterious masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House in 1911, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it. He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents, employing all of the devious methods at his command.

Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the music, with lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe. Lloyd Webber and Stilgoe also co-wrote the musical’s book.

The most memorable songs of the score include “All I Ask of You,” “Think of Me,” “The Point of No Return,” “Angel of Music,” “The Phantom of the Opera” theme song, and “The Music of the Night.

In this new tour, Quentin Oliver Lee portrays the man behind the mask, ‘The Phantom,’ with ‘Christine Daaé’ by Eva Tavares.

Lee has been seen on Broadway in Prince of Broadway as well as the national tour of Porgy and Bess. His regional and opera credits include Festival of The Lion King (Scar), Encores! Golden AppleLa BohèmeCarmen and Gianni Schicchi. Tavares hails from Vancouver, BC and trained at the UBC Opera Program and the Banff/Citadel Theatre Professional Training Program. Credits include the world premiere of Sousatzka, West Side Story and A Little Night Music.

Other cast members include Jordan Craig as ‘Raoul,’ Trista Moldovan as ‘Carlotta Giudicelli,’ David Benoit as ‘Monsieur Firmin,’ Rob Lindley as ‘Monsieur André,’ Kristie Dale Sanders as ‘Madame Giry,’ Phumzile Sojola as ‘Ubaldo Piangi’, and Emily Ramirez as ‘Meg Giry.’

The Company performs “Masquerade.” Original Tour Cast (Photo by Alistair Muir) on Equality365.com

The Company performs “Masquerade.” Original Tour Cast (Photo by Alistair Muir)

Laurence Connor directs. He co-directed a new touring production of Les Misérables, after its successful revival on Broadway. He also helmed the award-winning revival production of Miss Saigon that played London’s West End and Broadway, as well as stage version of the movie, School of Rock, on Broadway.

Phantom opened in London’s West End in 1986, and debuted on Broadway two years later. It won the 1986 Olivier Award and the 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical. Broadway’s advance ticket sales amounted to a record-breaking $17 million. For comparison, in 2015, the advance tickets sales for Hamilton were $57 million.

When Phantom bowed on Broadway in 1988, audiences clamored to buy tickets. Everyone wanted to see the promised spectacle, in particular the massive chandelier descending over the audience. It produced ooh’s and ah’s and gasps—Although some feared it would malfunction and crash down on them, they couldn’t resist buying seats directly under it.

Phantom celebrated its 10,000th Broadway performance on 11 February 2012, the first production ever to do so. By 2011, it had been seen by over 130 million people in 145 cities across 27 countries, and continues to play in London and New York.

With total estimated worldwide gross receipts of over $5.6 billion and total Broadway gross of $845 million, it was the most financially successful entertainment event until The Lion King surpassed it in 2014. Of course, Hamilton is on deck to surpass both of them.

But there were stumbling blocks; in 1987 the heirs of Giacomo Puccini charged in a lawsuit that the climactic phrase in “Music of the Night” closely resembled a similar phrase in the sequence “Quello che tacete” from Puccini’s opera Girl of the Golden West. The litigation was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

In 1990, a Baltimore songwriter named Ray Repp filed a lawsuit alleging that the title song from Phantom was based on a song that he wrote in 1978 called “Till You”. After eight years of litigation – including an unsuccessful countersuit by Lloyd Webber claiming that “Till You” was itself a plagiarism of “Close Every Door” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – the jury found in Lloyd Webber’s favor.

Former Pink Floyd vocalist/bassist Roger Waters repeatedly claimed in interviews that the signature descending/ascending half-tone chord progression from Phantom’s title song was plagiarized from the bass line of a track on the 1971 Pink Floyd album Meddle called “Echoes“. But he has never taken any legal action. “Life’s too long to bother with suing Andrew f**king Lloyd Webber,” he said. “I think that might make me really gloomy.”

The controversy made no difference to audiences, they kept pouring into the theater.

When first published, Leroux’s sweeping story of romance and murder immediately caught the attention of readers. It quickly became fodder for film adaptations –and satire–with almost 30 versions gracing the big screen since 1916.

Most notable are the 1925 film version starring Lon Chaney, and the 1943 film starring Claude Rains. Of course, they weren’t musicals. The musical adaptation bowed in 2004, directed by Joel Schumacher, with Gerard Butler as the Phantom, Emmy Rossum as Christine, Patrick Wilson as Raoul, Minnie Driver as Carlotta, and Miranda Richardson as Madame Giry.

The musical even made a Vegas bow in 2006. Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular ran until September 2012. Directed by Harold Prince and Gillian Lynne, the musical was shortened to 95 minutes without intermission.

Phantom is obviously a cash cow. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be touring again. Its popularity has not waned. After 32 years. Mackintosh’s original production of Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera is still running at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London and has also set a new record–30-plus years at NYC’s Majestic Theatre, as the longest running musical on Broadway.

The tour’s production team features choreography by Scott Ambler, set design by Paul Brown, Tony Award®-winning original costume design by Maria Björnson, lighting design by Tony Award®-winner Paule Constable, sound design by Mick Potter, and musical supervision by John Rigby. The production is overseen by Matthew Bourne and Cameron Mackintosh.

Much to the delight of his fans, Lloyd Webber recently strayed from his prissy, effete image, thanks to James Corden’s Crosswalk Musical version of classic Lloyd Webber musicals (including Phantom). The celebrated composer couldn’t resist joining the irrepressible hilarity of Corden’s romp. You can check it out here.

The Phantom of the Opera runs for 16 performances August 8 – 19 at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre, tickets start at $35, available at STGPresents.org, Ticketmaster.com, by calling 1-800-982-2787 or in person at The Paramount Theatre Box Office (Monday through Friday, 10am to 6pm).

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About Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times "Style" section for her "Word Portraits," specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that "Starla" is indeed her real name.

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