— Since we are now in the Halloween season, it should not be surprising that Bass Hall is currently haunted by an eerie, wandering spirit.
But it is a bit of a shock to see the dazzling level of talent in the national touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera (the source of Bass Hall’s phantasm) .
In recent years, the touring productions of major Broadway shows have really raised the bar. But few have rivaled their original source as well as this presentation of the longest running show in Broadway history, which is a slightly revised version by producer Cameron Mackintosh that features some exciting changes to the look and staging (but not the music) of the musical.
You probably know the plot of the this spooky romance set in the early 20th century: A mysterious, masked figure lurks in the shadows (and depths) of the Paris Opera House, where he menaces productions and singers he sees as sub-par, and develops a crush on Christine , the one soprano he deems to be worthy of the material she sings. Since the Phantom, as he is known, tends to be slightly homicidal, there is a concerted effort to flush him out before he ruins any more productions, and prevents Christina from finding happiness with her newly re-found true love, Raoul. Fabulous musical numbers ensue.
This outstanding production does an especially good job of the bringing out the horror movie-like personality of this story, which is based on a novel by Gaston Leroux and has had multiple incarnations on the silver screen. This Phantom is no Casper. He is creepy and scary.
The story, told with a book by Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe, and the lyrics by Charles Hart, comes through with sharp clarity in this updated version, and it is a dark tale indeed.
But the shadowy world of this story is brightly illuminated by the singing and acting of this production. Katie Travis is a luminous Christine, who balances the conflicting vulnerability and exceptional strength of her character adroitly. Derrick Davis, in the title role, completely disappears into his part and gives it a glowing power.
Jordan Craig, as Raoul, has an ideal voice for his character. Trista Moldovan, as the house diva and Christine’s stage rival Carlotta, adds a gorgeous voice and an experienced perspective. She sang the role of Christine on Broadway, and she seems very much at home, even though her costume has changed.
The backdrop for the work of these fine players is an amazing, revolving set by Paul Brown that is filled with clever tricks. It is astonishing for both its aesthetics and its utility.
These obvious assets are complemented by some superb efforts in the supporting elements of the production. Under the baton of Dale Rieling, the pit ensemble produces a huge, synthesizer-driven sound. There are plenty of flashy special effects. And the sound design by Mick Potter is extremely creative — especially when it makes us think the Phantom is moving among the seated sections of Bass Hall.
Finally, I don’t want to give away too much about the famous chandelier in this show. Suffice it to say that you will be very satisfied with how that magnificent, glittering prop is used in this production.
So this new, improved take on this classic offers you the chance to fall in love with this masterpiece all over again. It happens that I have seen the Broadway production of this show within the last year, and I found this Performing Arts Fort Worth presentation of it to be as good or better than that richly positive experience. Despite the approach of All Hallows’ Eve, and the frightening nature of its subject matter, this is anything but a show to fear.