The reason for the trip. When I started going to New York (2012) I was always asked, “Why haven’t you seen Phantom… yet?” My reply was always, “Oh, it’ll be around forever. I’ll see it whenever they announce its closing.” Well, fast forward to me just a few months ago, checking my phone on the day they announced their (first) closing date, where my mother in-law was the first to text, no context given, that "I better head to New York!" I checked my Twitter feed and there it was. No April Fool’s prank, no joking, The Phantom of the Opera, the Broadway production that’s as old as me, was finally closing. Within 36 hours I was able to convince my theatre-appreciating wife to not only fly to New York hurriedly, but to book a week full of shows, a flight, hotel, and tickets to Phantom... And I can’t express just how happy I am that I got to catch this iconic musical in its home. The production never once seemed tired or showing its age. The stagecraft, production value, and cast’s commitment to Christine’s journey in the Paris Opera House seemed as fresh and sexy as I assume audiences felt when the chandelier came crashing down for the first time in the Majestic Theater in 1988.
As someone who appreciates Phantom… I grew more enthralled as the performance went from opening moments to final curtain. Paul Adam Schaefer donned the mask for the evening I took in the show, and his voice glistened in “the Music of the Night” and “All I Ask of You (reprise).” Schaefer’s contributions in the trio, “Wandering Child/Bravo, Bravo” added glorious bravado along with Emilie Kouatchou’s Christine and John Riddle’s Raoul. “The Point of No Return” gave Schaefer and Kouatchou the beginning of the end and a capital punch of dominating vocals and expertly crafted connection. The three leads blessed the Majestic stage with pure vocal prowess and a romantic allure that gave this production the fully-realized level of enjoyment it’s known to provide audiences. Riddle and Kouatchou delivered “All I Ask of You” beautifully, filled with harmonies and solo turns which did justice to this hallmark score.
Supporting highlights came from Trista Moldovan’s hilarious Carlotta, replete with a vibrato that is pleasantly dominating as a compliment to the legit opera turns she has, and understudy Jeremy Stolle as Piangi. The two led a dynamite “Notes/Prima Donna” alongside an equally fun pairing in Nehal Joshi and Craig Bennett and Messieurs Andre and Firmin, respectively. The dance corps was on point in their pointe, and the integrity of what Hal Prince left for audiences to enjoy these past 34 years is still very much intact. The Wow factor is still a character, the score still excites, and when I left the Majestic Theatre, happy with my show-watching choice, I finally understood the hype and love for this musical. Farewell to you, Phantom; thank you for the music, the mask, and the magic.