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‘Phantom’ story outshines music in Fireside’s version


By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

January 11, 2018


Caitlin Borek plays Christine Daeé and Michael Glavan plays The Phantom in “Phantom” at the Fireside Dinner Theatre. Garrett Storm filled in for Glavan the night the musical
was reviewed for the Post.
Submitted photo

FORT ATKINSON - When first hearing of the upcoming production of “Phantom of the Opera” at Fireside, I was very excited to see it again. However, upon getting there, I soon came to realize that the version they had chosen was not the one by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Instead, it was one called “Phantom” by Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston, one that has been somewhat overshadowed by Webber’s masterpiece which opened five years prior to this one. However, it has also made a mark in the theatrical world.

Both are based on a novel by Gaston Leroux, a story that echoes shades of “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Elephant Man” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” sad tales of persons whose external appearance is tortuous and proves a deterrent to their dreams of love, acceptance and success. The Phantom is a talented composer-musician-singer whose life and his work have been stymied by his flawed face.

Christine is a young talented singer discovered by Phillippe as she strolls down the streets of Paris trying to peddle a song she wrote. Impressed with her beauty and her talent, he tries to arrange vocal lessons for her with his friend Gerard Carierre, the man who has been running the opera house for many years. Unfortunately he has just been fired and replaced by Joseph Buquet and his wife, Carlotta, a singer whose ambition exceeds her talent.  When Carlotta hears Christine sing at the Bistro on open-mic night, she is jealous and determined to abort her career.

The tension of fear and angst is provided by Carlotta’s venomous plot and the ominous presence of The Phantom who lives in the bowels of the opera house. He has fallen in love with Christine by hearing her beautiful voice and does everything in his power to bring her fame, even giving her music lessons behind his mask, secretly hoping that she will eventually fall in love with him out of gratitude.

The music, though quite lovely, is not as memorable as that in Webber’s version, but the story is better and more enlightening, giving us more details on The Phantom’s background and fleshing out the complexity of some of the relationships between characters. No crashing chandelier here but some very dramatic scenes that provide their own surprises.

Garrett Storm filled in very ably for Michael Glavan as The Phantom the day I attended. He must have been thrilled to have his taste of glory in this meaty role. Caitlin Borek’s awesome voice and powerful emotional range made her a perfect fit as Christine, the beleaguered heroine. Tina Mancini as the spicy Carlotta was an excellent choice, and Philippe’s portrayal as the handsome friend and would-be lover of Christine was very well-rendered by Matthew Salvatore.

An outstanding performance worth mention was given by Ronald L. Brown as Carierre.

Lovely period costumes were provided by Robin Buerge; graceful ballet dancers and a strong vocal ensemble were chosen and directed by the able collaborative team of Edward Flesch and Mary Ehlinger.

All in all, it’s an experience to relish and remember.
 

At A Glance

“Phantom”

The musical runs through Feb. 18 at the Fireside Dinner Theatre, 1131 Janesville Ave., Fort Atkinson. Call 800-477-9505 or visit www.firesidetheatre.com.