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REVIEW: Phantom of the Opera Returns for Final Rollercoaster Ride (Orpheum Theatre)

The famous Masquerade in The Phantom of the Opera, now playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, MN. Photo by Alastair Muir.

This is your last chance to catch The Phantom of the Opera. Wait, that’s not quite right. This is your last chance to catch the magnificent 25th Anniversary Tour production of The Phantom of the Opera, now playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis through December 1. After six years of crisscrossing across the U.S. and Canada, this production finally closes up shop in the new year. The tour managers are doing anything but resting on their laurels in the home stretch. The result? A star-studded final cast and a turbocharged rollercoaster version of the show. It is a Phantom experience unlike any other.

“Like you’ve never seen it before” is practically an advertising cliché, but in this case, it’s true – even if you caught this same tour during its December 2017 stop. While the production design and sets are the same, the show runtime is a full 30 minutes faster…without any cuts to dialogue or music. The result is thrilling, exhilarating, and comedic in mays that you probably won’t expect. If you’re used to the specific, intricate timing in the Broadway cast album, this might come with some shock at the different pulse of this show – but the result is very much worth it.

Trista Moldovan as the diva “La Carlotta”. In the show, Carlotta fears being replaced by the young ingenue singer Christine Daae. Molodovan herself played the role of Christine before moving into the role of  Carlotta. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The 25th Anniversary Tour, which launched back in 2015, started with several notable changes to the classic show recipe. Sets were massively scaled up, to better capture the sheer magnificence and size of the places depicted. (If you’ve been to Paris, the faithful replication of spaces in the Opéra Garnier is a special treat.) Added lighting and other visual effects gave the show a look of one Gothic painting after another, tremendously evocative and beautiful to behold. A few mechanical and special effects were replaced with practical ones (no more trapdoor chair at the end, and actual dancers replacing the life-size marionettes of the Masquerade staircase), the chandelier was enhanced, and a bit more of horror aspects came through by adding a touch of verismo.

The final cast for the tour is topnotch, starting with the stellar pairing of Derrick Davis as the Phantom and Emma Grimsley (the talented daughter of the famous opera singers Luretta Bybee and Greer Grimsley) as Christine. Trista Moldovan, herself a noted Christine in past iterations of the show, shines as the diva Carlotta.  Other notable performances include SarahGrace Mariani as Meg, Jordan Craig as Raoul, and Phumzile Sojola as a delightfully disdainful Piangi.

SarahGrace Mariani as Meg Giry. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

One of the ways that this cast shines is in punching up the comedy. The comic opera scenes – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s parody of 18th-century French opera – have never been funnier than in the present incarnation, with the rapid-fire delivery used to poke fun at the genre’s conceits. The letter scenes, too, have a brilliant and different flow to them, cascading the reveals and reactions to delightful effect. When the Intermission arrives, you scarcely comprehend how it’s come so soon. Then, when the Act II rollercoaster gets rolling, there’s nothing to do but strap in as things build to the final crescendo.

Is this your parents’ The Phantom of the Opera? No, it’s certainly not a museum piece. This production has a few dashes of shading that show an awareness of our times and mores, while still sweeping you into a world where the boundaries between magical realism and the surreal blur. The resulting hurricane is not to be missed.

Christine (Emma Grimsley) and Raoul (Jordan Craig) escape to the roof of the opera house. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The Phantom of the Opera runs through December 1 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, MN.

Basil Considine