THE PHANTOM STILL REQUESTS THE SEAT IN BOX FIVE, THIS IS HIS FIRST VISIT TO AN EAST BAY STAGE
Stage1 and Ohlone College present their 2019 SummerFest with the East Bay’s first staging of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Some call it the “Crown Jewel” of musicals since its 33 year history and 1986 debut on London's West End to New York in 1988. It remains the longest running musical currently on Broadway. PHANTOM is still not available to regional stages but Ohlone and Stage1 received the restricted rights to produce the only production in Nor Cal this summer. Gifted director Micheal Navarra says “There is a reason that audiences keep returning to the world of PHANTOM - it’s haunting, beautiful and exotic score and its rich deep story line account for its success.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic production is now on stage at the Ohlone College Smith Arts Center only through July 27th. Back in 1993 THE PHANTOM called the Bay Area its home for five years at the Curran Theatre, making it the longest run for a Nor Cal stage. This new college version PHANTOM has been scaled down to fit any stage, but still includes the icon chandelier and full size Elephant prop. This a darker set designed by Fred Alim and Beth Ziegler. The infamous chandelier was designed by a talented props team including Alixiz Burris, Sarah Herrera, Christopher Boora and Ken Eaton. The chandelier flows to drop on stage and the set turns with ease to create the Phantom's lair.
The story is a classic beauty and the beast tale that involves a disfigured man who lives below the Paris Opera House. The Phantom falls for a chorus girl, Christine, in the production and makes sure she gets the lead. He hypnotizes her to sing, and threatens the new owners and opera stars with disaster,if his own opera is not performed with his Christine in the lead. A friend from childhood, Raoul, sees her in a performance and falls for her which of course sets off the Phantom for some fun ghosting. It is a classic tale of forbidden love.
Christine Dae played by UCB’s Rebecca Davis has a stunning voice that blends marvelously with Meg Giry played by the distinguished Rachel Sue, creating a stunning chord during the song “Angel of Music”. The icon anti-hero, the Phantom, is played by the magnificent Pedro Rodelas, his performance of “All I Ask of You Reprise” is heart-wrenching and filled with emotion. Opera diva Carlotta played by the camp Emily Scheichel-Frank is the stereotypical stage queen and her voice is incredible. It is comical and marvelous that even when she’s trying to make it sound bad, it is still strong.
Piangi played by the priceless Elmer Strausser is the comic relief and showed off his great stage timing. Firmin is played by local favorite Joshua Gonzales and his partner Andre is played by the dapper Matrk Floto they are the perfect managers in the show, and their voices blend together nicely.
Christine’s second love interest Raoul played by the handsome, talented Taylor Hendricks has a voice that is smooth and aspiring. At times the villainess, Madame Giry, played by the tall Elizabeth Claire Lawrence has a commanding presence that matches her connection to the Phantom. The ensemble offers an elegant element to the magic of the Phantom always engaged in a musical with a living backdrop to this opulent show.
The Pit Orchestra, is the highlight of this commanding show conducted by music director Greg Zema. His 36 member pit sounds spectator as flawless as a professional Symphony. The songs were pitch perfect and lifted the Smith Center to the tomb of the Phantom's Lair. The classic songs “Angel of Music”, “The Music of The Night” and “All I Ask of You” are impressive and vocal director Janet Holmes kept her 50 member cast fully realized. Zema’s pit brings that rich organ to life for the grand appearances of the Phantom. At 2.5 hours the show moves along and is eye candy with all the elegant set moves and chorus numbers. Choreographer Janel Tomblin-Brown brings all the glamor to “Masquerade” and the huge ballet and opera numbers.
Light Designer Matt O’Donnell has the mood tranfix the story by the use of a lot of back light and fog changing but including floor lights for the floating boat. The projections help identify locations and the Phantoms perch above the main performance space. David Hobbs’ and Jeff Stevens’ sound design is nicely balanced throughout the theatre and many times the Phantom is off stage bouncing his voice from all directions of the Smith Center. The costumes by Tamara Cooper are absolutely stunning, the Masquerade ball gowns stop the show; so beautiful and elegant. Every costume fit the time period perfectly and the Projection Design by Alexa Simon is ideal. Stage managers Erica Peralez and Naomi Wiemken move the large cast on and off the full size set with ease. The many entrances from the house kept the sold out audience busy following the Phantom from all corners of the Smith Center.
Caring and passionate, frightening and desperate - every phase of this Phantom's struggle leaves your heart aching, thanks to Director Navarra’s magical eye and showmanship. These college and local thespians ride the wave well in this awesome spectacle. Applause to the ensemble artists, cast, dancers, pit singers, musicians and tech crew who help make this production the phenomenal event and a first for the East Bay. PHANTOM is sure to return to many Bay Area stages when it is released to regional theatres. Next up at Stage1 is 42nd STREET that opens September 28th, and Ohlone Theatre Arts has a rich fall season planned. But in the meantime “…Close Your Eyes and Surrender!” Some seats still remain - you can get single tickets at the links below. THIS IS A MUST SEE.
OHLONE COLLEGE AND STAGE1 THEATRE PRESENT
Andrew Lloyd Webber's
OF THE OPERA
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Book by Charles Hart
Directed by Michael Navarra Zema
Vocal Director Janet Holme
Music Director Greg Zema
MUST CLOSE JULY 27
Ohlone College Smith Center for the Arts
G. Craig Jackson Theatre
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont.
Running time 2.5 hours with one intermission
Photos by Stage1 and Ohlone staff
VMEDIA ARTS VISITS THE PHANTOM - "GO SEE A SHOW"