Just got back from the touring company production of Phantom of the Opera. Oh, my god, what a contemptible mess. It was only a few minutes into the performance that I determined that an appearance by Jar Jar Binks, Wesley Crusher, and Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen would actively improve the caliber of the production.
At one point, with the senseless spectacle unfolding before me, I was sitting there wondering if I might actually be going deaf. I was thinking about making an appointment with a hearing aid center. I was being thankful for the fact that my next door neighbor wears hearing aids; maybe he could give me advice. Because I could not, for the life of me, understand what was going on onstage. Out of all the lyrics in the show, maybe one word in ten was intelligible, and that number was reduced substantially for every additional cast member on stage. A note to the cast; seven part harmony should be harmonious. I understand that shouting completely different incomprehensible songs at each other may be fun, but you should at least agree beforehand on a key. By the middle of one scene, several of the cast could have been singing Freebird, and nobody would ever have known.
By the time they were muddling through the Masquerade scene, and the Phantom appears in the middle of the group, my boyfriend was about to yell “Jump him! There are fifty of you, and one of him! Jump on him and get it over with!”
Incomprehensibility might have been excusable, if the singing had been emotional, or even technically competent. Instead it was shrill, and devoid of all feeling. During Christine’s declaration of love to her beau, I sincerely expected him to say “Okay, you love me! Stop screaming at me!”
The figurehead above the stage became cheesily posessed and lurched down a few feet, so that the Phantom could whine at the audience in a temper tantrum worthy of Bruce Villanch.
By the last scene, the Phantom remembered that he should be emotionally affected by all the goings-on going on, and he started to show some feeling. Unfortunately, that was about the time that he forgot that he had to project his voice in order to involve the audience in this revelation. As it was, we were treated to some very emotional muttering.
It’s understandable that a major scene featuring a chorus of fifty people might be a bit scattered, a bit slurred, completely incomprehensible. But in what I can only assume (judging by the ticket prices) is a professional touring company, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect them to be on key.
Much of the set design, however, was beautiful, and I was able to distract myself by watching the pretty backdrops. Then it occurred to me, halfway through the first act, that there was a blind guy about two rows in front of us. I could only imagine him sitting there, wondering what the hell was going wrong onstage that was keeping all these people from singing coherently. Then I started wondering if he was starting to think he was going deaf, too. I spent the rest of the show feeling really sorry for him.
I’d heard about the chandelier. I was looking forward to it. I heard it was spectacular.
Yeah. Okay. It flashed a few times, and then wandered down jerkily towards the stage. Then it flashed brightly enough to blind the audience for most of the rest of the act. Which, I suppose, may have been the point.
I could go on. I could describe the Impotent Staff of Ineffective Firespurts, but I won’t. My boyfriend took me to this show, and we both anticipated a wonderful, deeply affecting experience. Instead, we spent over two hours being annoyed and confused.
Perhaps it had to do with the fact that the national touring company has been on the road for over a century. Perhaps it was that this was the second show of the day, and the cast and crew had blown everything on the matinee. Perhaps, and this is what I’m leaning toward, it was that this is Tucson, and we must be hicks here, who will give a standing ovation to anything.
But we paid a pretty serious price for premium tickets to this show, and we would have been better entertained by pelting the cast with peanuts. So, to the people responsible for this mess, piss the hell off. The next time you put on a little show, please try and actually care enough to act, and sing. Hell, the show was so lame that the drummer didn’t even show up until after intermission. (Fortunately they had a Casiotone to fill in for him.) The next time you want to phone in a performance, let us know in advance, so we can pretend to fork over our money.