The Orpheum Has a New Phantom
A little magic in the air opening week at the Orpheum Theatre San Francisco, a bit of excitement and chatter all around. The tourists gawk at the building’s medieval styled facades and clammer to take pictures in front of posters and window cards, while seasoned locals sip drinks in the center of the room subtly scanning the crowd for familiar faces. I myself insist on getting a drink before the show, after all if I am going to sit through several hours of adults singing their dialogue to me, I am jolly well going to ‘lubricate’ my ears so to speak. More on that later.
The Phantom of the Opera has been a Broadway staple for decades, so one must keep it fresh while preserving the classic elements that the fans love. Director Laurence Connor and his team have done just that. The set designs and costumes are wonderful, they spared no expense. The stage and story move together both thematically and physically, the stage feels like it’s in near constant motion without being a detracting from the performances, the set designer Paul Brown composed something fairly special here. Doors open, steps appear, flames glow, chandeliers glisten, and the decor and costuming of the period is spot on and glorious.
The highlight of the first act for me, was the Prima Donna number sung by veteran performers Jacquelynne Fontaine, Edward Staudenmayer & David Benoit. That song has the grandeur and pomp of a true operatic number, and those performers carried a famous and difficult tune very well.
Now for intermission:
The veteran theater goer pre-orders drinks before intermission, that way you don’t wait in line. At the break you simply float up to the counter and find your beverages neatly waiting for you, and wearing a name tag that says ‘Alex’ on them. There’s a quiet smugness that comes with getting your drink before everyone else. One takes that first sip glancing at the people waiting in line as if holding up some kind of hunting trophy. Deep down you’re really hoping a dashing couple will see your prize and say: “Hey look at that guy, he already has a drink, he must be a genius or something” and you’ll get to throw your head back ever so slightly and go, “oh ahahahaha, it’s no big deal, really, aahhahahahaaha.”
This feeling of satisfaction and superiority for me was dashed at the Orpheum Theater Wednesday night. It was just dashed on the rocks (cocktail pun) like so many of my other smug dreams. As I sipped my pre-ordered cocktail, I notice the true veterans had brought their own cups, magic sippy cups with closed insulated lids, that allowed them to bring their beverages into the performance with them. I stood in awe, the teacher had once again become the student. And when the lights dimmed, my guest and I had rushed down our libations, while the real professionals pattered down to their seats with their sippy cups proudly full and on display. I shuttered…
The second act begins in a mirrored palace, a Parisian styled masquerade of costumed elegance, singing, dancing. It’s pretty wonderful. Katie Travis as Christine Daae, has a youthful Disney princess vibe, and she really came to life in the second act. Her voice both strong and vulnerable. The production is modernized without being too obvious or imposing, and the artistry on set is very nice. I think you might like it.
It runs in SF until Oct 4th…