(Photo courtesy of Catherine Lee)
Chino Hills High School

Review: Phantom of the Opera musical

I saw Phantom of the Opera at Majestic Theatre in New York in June. This production is a wonderful cinematic play with a timeless and suspenseful plot. Its original musical had music composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart. The musical book on which it’s based on is written by Richard Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber. 

A sense of excitement stirred in me as I entered the theatre from the stairs by the sides. It was not a commodious theatre, I was engrossed by the well-lit stage with a beautiful angelic statue in the middle of the plushy red curtains with golden leafs embellishing its crown.

Looking up, a regal-fashioned chandelier dangled from the beyond-reach ceiling. It was my first time ever to a Broadway musical behind the doors of a corner in New York where I never paid attention to on the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus. I knew I was in for a treat. 

Although the environment was unfamiliar, forgetting the bustling world outside of me was just effortless ease. Darkness descended, whispers died. Soft but powerful voice started ringing in my ears that penetrated my heart. I felt a lovely peace. Like any traditional musical, Phantom of the Opera has numerous songs that are interspersed with the play’s dialogue, with intricate choreography that skillfully portrays each character’s lines and gives the play a life.

The costumes worn by the female characters were mainly formal and colorful gowns, and the ones worn by male were suits and vintage stockings like the daily costumes of the 18th centuries. From the entire staging to numerous props set in certain places, even the most detailistic thing used by the cast are breathtakingly beautiful and fit the play really well.

I thought of the beginning of the play scene in “Age of Innocence” and other western classic literature, and started to wonder whether they were precisely like this hundreds of years ago, where different classes of people would come together and certain balcony seats would be reserved for some upper class attendees, and debutantes make their first sensational appearance in society. 

The play started off with an overture played by the mournful orchestra, yet transformed into vivid colors as the story transcends through ages. The light tone of orchestral music sometimes contradicted a surge of the dark and fiery crescendo, and sometimes faded into shushed staccato that gave the audience a wary mind. This is the same that we felt as the Phantom, whose capricious self lived in his little den in the small opera house fell in love with Christine, an unnoticeable girl in the chorus but whose life forever changed when the soprano stumped away with rage.

Her beautiful voice and her firm believe in an angel sent by her dead father led her toward the phantom, and captured the heart of this grotesque man. His obsession turned into terrorizing the opera cast because they did not give her the lead role, therefore ignoring his demand. The phantom’s heart is broken as he wallowed in his loneliness and anger when Christine fell in love with her childhood sweetheart Viscount Raoul.

The acting was some of the best acting I’ve ever seen, even when compared to those famous Hollywood movies. Simply by listening to the inflections in their monotone and dialogues, the audience could immediately have a good understanding of their emotions and personalities. 

Within the 125 member cast, there were many people striving in the background as well to ensure a successful production. 

According to the Boston Globe, Backstage people, such as Heather Chockley, are responsible for launching every one of the more than 400 lights, automation, and special effects (including several pyrotechnics).

They have to make sure that they happen at the precise moment they should, so that not only the performers are in the right place at the right time, they’re free from the danger of being hurt by an errant set piece.

According to On Milwaukee, another stage manager Hansen said the behind-the-scenes workers have to pull 16 hour shifts to prepare for the show, working some days from 8 a.m. until midnight. 

Being the oldest musical show since it was premiered in 1986, it still has the same iconic costume designs by Maria Bjornson, although many costumes were recently made with new technical wizardry to better present the mysteries in the plot, according to Lansing State Journal. 

This play gives very thoughtful insight into success and rejection, and presents changing themes of light and darkness. We sympathize with the phantom who hid in his sanctuary, and protect him from the respite of the outer world while outraged with the misfortune that he bestowed to other people in the opera in order to get what he wants. He wanted to be loved as the rest of humans, but was only capable of embracing his dark surroundings.

It reminded me of outsiders and how they’re excluded when they’re accepted by the people they wanted to be a part of. Like stars in the nightfall, they shine just as brightly as they rest, sometimes even brighter, but their lights are dimmed by their miseries and other’s ignorances that they don’t realize they have more talent than the rest. This magical Broadway musical experience has changed my attitude of musicals as well as my comprehensive understanding of the moral in the story. 

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