PHANTOMBook by Arthur Kopit, Music & Lyrics by Maury Yeston
Artisan Center Theater
Director – John Wilkerson
Music Director – Richard Gwozdz
Choreographer – Amy Jones
Stage Manager – Cassondra Harbin
Assistant Director – Rian Slay
Set Design – Wendy Searcy-Woode
Costume Design – Nita Cadenhead
Prop Design – Amy Luckie and Eric Luckie
Light Design – Cassondra Harbin
The Phantom/Erik – Shafer Wilkerson
Christine Daaé – Jeannie Miller
The Coult DeChandon (Phillipe) - Spencer McCoy
Gérard Carrière – Rob Veal
Cholet – Mark Scott
Carlotta – Noël Clark
Inspector LaDoux – Kirk Corley
Jean-Claude-Stage Manager/Joseph Buquet – Kevin Carter
Opera Tenor/Waiter/Actor – Michael Hasty
Opera Diva 1/First Nighter – Katy Hill
Oerpa Diva 2/First Nighter – Connie George
Fleure – Emily Gordon
Flora – Madie Steizer
Florence – Julina Durling
Belladova Dancer/Ballet Dancer 1 – Sirie McCoy
Ballerina 1/ Ensemble – Heather Krebel
Young Carrière/Waiter/Policeman – Josh Wilson
Young Erik/Chorus – Jimmy Jones
Waiter/Policeman/Chorus – Brendon Ramsey
Chorus/First Nighter – Trina Wilson
Chorus/First Nighter – Jessica Huffman
Chorus/First Nighter – Madison Jones
Chorus/First Nighter – Alyssa Meekins
Chorus/First Nighter – Carla Wicks
Chorus/First Nighter – Samantha Bajonero
Reviewed Performance: 10/14/2017
Reviewed by Mark-Brian Sonna, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
While critics have admired the more detailed character development in “Phantom” over other musicalized version, the consensus is that it lacks the epic grandeur of the more known Broadway show which is still running after several decades.
I have always been curious to see this version of the Leroux tale, and was pleased to see such a solid production by Artisan Center Theater. Whereas “the Phantom of the Opera” feels like a grand opera, “Phantom” hews to the popular operetta style prevalent at the time the story takes place. Unfortunately some of the lyrics are clunky, and the only song that is memorable in the show is the opening “Melody de Paris” with its highly repetitive lyrics, so much so that it becomes cloying: “Melody, melody, melody, melody/ Sung so melodiously/ Melody, melody/ My kind of melody/ Gentle and flowing and free.”
Given the weakness of the songs, they manage to push the plot forward, and in Artisan’s production they are sung gloriously. Musical Director Richard Gwozdz works miracles with the cast and the pre-recorded soundtrack so that the theater is filled with music. The singing is sensational.
The story follows the budding romance between Christine Daaé and Erik (The Phantom). Erik falls in love with Christine and through a series of machinations she becomes a singer at the Paris Opera House. Unfortunately for Christine, Alain Cholet has acquired the Paris Opera house as a showcase for his wife Carlotta who is determined to derail the budding career of Christine. Upon witnessing the treachery on the part of Carlotta, Erik takes his revenge on the conspirators against the wishes of the former Opera head (and father) Gérard Carrière. The plot and characters are riveting, and in this musical version of the story, the character of Erik and his past is more fully developed then the “The Phantom of the Opera” version. This marked difference is an enhancement and a detriment to this version of the story. While we understand Erik more, he no longer is the mercurial character that defines the “other” version. In other words, we get to know him too well, so the musical becomes more of a character study in which the audience becomes less engaged because we can predict what he will do next, thus lessening the horror of his actions.
Shafer Wilkerson who plays Erik has a perfect voice for the Phantom: it fills the theatre when needed, and at other times it is gentle and sweet. Considering his character’s face is hidden by a mask, it requires Wilkerson to convey every emotion through his voice and movement. He surmounts this challenge. He is an alluring and sexy Phantom and it’s easy to see how Christine Daaé, played by Jeanne Miller, would fall in love with him. As written, the book doesn’t provide Christine much character development. Whereas Erik evolves from being a loner to a monster, Christine pretty much remains the same. Miller portrays Christine’s naiveté genuinely. She gets caught up in the whirlwind drama not of her own doing, and suffers because of it. The ending moment of the musical requires a very genuine and honest portrayal, and she brought tears to some of the audience. Her rich voice is absolutely melodious and a delight.
Gérard Carrière, played by Rob Veal, is a major character in this production. His role doesn’t require much singing, though he has a fine voice. As the fired Opera House director and father to Erik, this role requires strong acting chops to convey the inner conflicts his character possesses. Though he loves his son, he is appalled by his son’s actions. We also discover he inadvertently was catalyst for the tragedy that unfolds. All these nuances were captured effectively by Veal. The other villain in this production is Carlotta, played with much gusto by Noël Clark. She is given much of the comic relief, and her timing was spot on. When her viciousness kicks in, Clark made the transition believable.
The rest of the supporting cast was very good. As Cholet, Carlotta’s husband, Mark Scott captured the detached stiff upper lip of a wealthy business man wanting to appease his loud mouthed wife. The Count DeChandon is a wealthy “playboy/frat boy” type and was played quite nicely by Spencer McCoy. Jimmy Jones as the young Erik nearly stopped the show with his stunning voice and delivery. Kirk Corley’s Inspector LaDoux had the required gravitas for the character. Even Josh Wilson from the ensemble, who had to play three roles as the young Carrière, Waiter, and Policeman, pulled off his roles with aplomb. In truth, every performer delivered solidly in this production. The cast is quite large, but suffice to say there was no weak link.
On the production end the costume design by Nita Cadenhead, the lighting design by Cassondra Harbin, the prop design by Amy Luckie and Eric Luckie, the choreography by Amy Jones, and the set design by Wendy Searcy-Woode were top notch. Collectively these “behind the scene” artists captured the majestic feel of the period and the Opera house. In regards to Ms. Searcy-Woode's scenic design, I particularly enjoyed the scrims that surrounded the audience that looked like walls so that when the characters walked through the “catwalks” of the Opera and the “catacombs” of Paris with a shift of light the audience could see through them adding a visual intrigue to the performance.
John Wilkerson who directed this large and elaborate show must be commended. Though there were a few technical snafus in some scene transitions, the production looked grand. With such a large cast the stage never seemed cluttered. He captured the flavor of the period in his staging, and elicited genuine performances from his actors. Well done!
This production of “Phantom” is a solid production. Even though the book, music, and lyrics are at times clunky, this production overcame these weaknesses. Is it a great musical? No. Will you be entertained? Yes. And that is enough reason to go to the theatre.
A note: This production is double cast. The cast reviewed performs Tuesdays, Thursday, and Saturdays at 7:30 PM.
Artisan Center Theater
444 East Pipeline Road
Hurst, Texas 76053
Now through November 4, 2017
Performances are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30 PM, and Saturdays at 3 PM. Tickets $22 - $24. For information and tickets visit www.Artisanct.com or call 817-284-1200.