From its thunderous opening chords to its plummeting chandelier, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera doesn’t run short on spectacle. Dazzling stage effects, sensuous costumes and an imposing score have made this the longest-running Broadway musical.
While the show’s artistic elements are a major draw, Phantom has also enthralled theatregoers with its rich, twisted storyline that keeps its doors wide open to interpretation. Throughout the plot, tensions between clarity and insanity, reality and imagination, and physicality and the supernatural are enthralling mysteries explored by different productions.
For Cameron Mackintosh’s North American Phantom tour, the show remains artistically sumptuous but offers a telling in which characters are anchored more in the physical world than the ghostly.
“It’s the same story and it’s the same music that we know and love, but it is sort of a more realistic approach at this story that can sometimes be where the Phantom is this Svengali and Christine is sort of hypnotized by him,” said Bay City-native Katie Travis, who plays Christine.
“People are going through some things and trying to decide what to do with that and what direction to go with their life. … I think the goal is to sort of simplify it down so that it’s about it being relatable, versus being a spectacle entirely.”
In accordance with the production’s emphasis on realism, a new scenic design by Paul Brown tweaks the overall look in the interest of verisimilitude, though some of the original show’s imagery remains intact. Mist and candles abound and a giant chandelier is still a focal point.
Some new imaginative features include a massive half-drum that revolves, opens and shifts to form spaces and rooms in creative ways. The fresh touches create an opulent, but more realistic setting than previous Phantom stages.
“(The scenic design is) pretty awesome,” Travis said. “It’s really colorful, which is cool and it’s just very intricate, actually. You can’t see even everything, but in the dressing room, there’s bobby pins on the table and playing cards on the table and stuff that we never really use, but it’s there to attach this sort of realistic feel.”
By creating Phantom sets and characters that are closer to day-to-day life, the show has potential to make strong connections to audiences’ lives, Travis said.
“I think the biggest thing I hope people get from this is the idea that life is full of decisions and challenges,” she said, “and ultimately what’s most important is compassion and love.”
Phantom of the Opera
Wharton Center, East Lansing
April 1-5, 7-12; show times at 1, 2, 6:30, 7:30 & 8 p.m.
$32-$74, whartoncenter.com, (517) 353-1982
(Also coming to Grand Rapids in 2016: broadwaygrandrapids.com)
Other Performing Arts Events
MythBusters Jamie & Adam Unleashed!
Miller Auditorium, Kalamazoo, April 17, 8 p.m.
$47-$150, millerauditorium.com, (269) 387-2300
The Discovery Channel’s top mystery-solving duo is coming to Kalamazoo to bust open some urban legends and wow their geeky, devoted followers. Select audience members are invited onstage to partake in Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage’s wacky shenanigans and signature experimental schemes. Additional bonuses for “Busters” buffs include behind-the-scenes stories and an in-show photo op. (See related interview with Adam Savage about the show)
Dancing Pros: Live
DeVos Performance Hall, Broadway Grand Rapids
April 17, 8 p.m., $27.50-$62.50
broadwaygrandrapids.com, (616) 235-6285
Dance enthusiasts and reality TV junkies, this show is for you! Dancing with the Stars veterans Edyta Sliwinska and Chelsie Hightower join a cast of celebrities and pros in an exhilarating competition determined by your votes. Use your electronic voting remote to weigh in on exciting performances of the Cha Cha, Waltz, Tango, Samba, Jitterbug and Swing. Also enjoy live vocals from “American Idol” or “The Voice” singers that will propel the couples to victory.
Hot Club of Cowtown
Saugatuck Center for the Arts, April 17, 8 p.m.
$36, sc4a.org, (269) 857-2399
A sexy western blend of jazz and gypsy feels, the trio Hot Club of Cowtown kicks off Saugatuck Center for the Arts’ Spring Concert Series. Veterans of venues such as Lincoln Center and the Country Music Hall of Fame, Hot Club has also hit the small screen on “Rachael Ray” and “Grand Ole Opry Live.” This year, the group has earned two 2015 Ameripolitan Music Awards nominations: one for Western Swing Group and one for Western Swing Female.