Mary Claire Olsen ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
After 3 years of waiting, the Phantom of the Opera North American Tour has finally begun with a kickoff in Boston! The most successful show on Broadway has hit the road after undergoing some major changes to revive this iconic musical and bring it to life for a modern audience. Some could say the show has had a facelift, but a certain brooding phantom might take offense.
The planning for this new production of Phantom began with a discussion between producer Cameron Mackintosh and the original costume designer Maria Björnson just before her death in 2002. They wanted a set that reflected the phantom’s “darker backstage world” in contrast to the glamour of the stage world of the opera house. Paul Brown’s design certainly reflected this idea. The touring set includes massive, rotating walls that move the audience seamlessly from place to place in the opera house.
These pieces turn and reveal a catwalk above the opera house stage, stairs magically appear and disappear from the wall, and the set rotates again to bring us into the phantom’s lair. The whole set is mesmerizing as it effortlessly changes from a dark and gloomy basement to the elaborately goofy office of the new managers of the Opera Populaire. The contrast between backstage and center stage in the story, however, is continuously clear during the production, reminding the audience of the tragic life that the phantom leads and the world into which he was never able to fit.
Most of Björnson’s costume designs from the original London production were kept for the tour. There are even some costume pieces used in the tour that are 25 years old, meaning they came directly from the original production. Some of Bjornson’s designs that were not used in the original production were pulled for the tour to give it a fresh look. Even the mask that the phantom wears was changed to look more like a skull, making it that much more frightening. The phantom normally wears a skull mask for the masquerade scene at the opening of act two, but in this production he had the traditionally shaped half mask that was decked out in silver jewels. It reflected beautifully in the light, once again highlighting the contrast between the reality of the phantom’s deformity and the facade he puts on when around the opera house.
In order to bring this production into a modern, technological age, new effects were brought in. These included more than 85 moving lights designed by Paule Constable and video projections designed by Nina Dunn. The traditional pyrotechnics and smoke effects were kept, but were amplified thanks to new advancements in stage illusion technology. Even the iconic chandelier received a makeover for this tour. It was designed by Howard Eaton (designer of the London Olympic Rings) and weighed about one ton. When this enormous chandelier rattled and “fell” it terrified even the strongest of heart in the audience (especially the patrons sitting directly under it).
The Phantom tour is a grand occasion that will continue the success of this iconic musical. It is a reimagining of a show that is close to the hearts of many theatre enthusiasts and sporadic theatergoers alike. The Phantom of the Opera will now be able to haunt theaters across North America in a revamped production that audiences will love.