Fresh take on ‘Phantom’ promises to light up Benedum Center |
Theater & Arts

Fresh take on ‘Phantom’ promises to light up Benedum Center

Candy Williams

It’s hard to imagine that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway musical masterpiece, “The Phantom of the Opera,” could be improved upon after 31 years of brilliant opening nights – yet Cameron Mackintosh’s new production features some changes that are said to be no less than dazzling.

“Phantom” lights up the Benedum Center for 16 performances Feb. 20 to March 3 as a season special part of the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series, presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Broadway Across America.

The fresh take on the classic love story doesn’t alter the original music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart, which includes favorite songs “Music of the Night,” “All I Ask of You” and “Masquerade,” or the costumes by Maria Bjornson.

Based on Gaston Leroux’s novel “Le Fantome de L’Opera,” “The Phantom of the Opera” is the story of a masked figure who hides beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House. When he falls in love with a young chorus singer, Christine, he privately tutors her to become a star while terrorizing the rest of the opera house.

Reimagined sets

What’s new with this production is the sets by Paul Brown, directing by Laurence Conner, choreography by Scott Ambler and special effects by illusion consultant Paul Kieve, including the show’s legendary chandelier.

“The changes are quite dynamic,” says Trista Moldovan, who portrays Carlotta, “the diva of the opera house” whom the Phantom dislikes because he feels she is trying to overtake Christine’s role.

“Like everyone else, she is helpless against the Phantom. He knows all the nooks and crannies to hide in,” she says. “Carlotta is like the voice of reason in the show.”

Moldovan, who is from Cleveland, Ohio, formerly played Christina in “Phantom of the Opera” in New York, where she was part of the cast during the musical’s 10,000th Broadway performance in 2012.

She also has performed in national tours of “White Christmas” and “Bridges of Madison County” and lists “1776” at Pittsburgh Public Theater among her regional production credits.

Unique love story

“With different staging and scenic elements, it’s a re-envisioning of the musical that everybody knows and loves,” she says of the current “Phantom” production. “It’s a really unique love story that’s larger than life.”

Her husband, Stephen Tewksbury, also is a member of the national tour coming to Pittsburgh, cast as Monsieur LeFevre. He previously performed on Broadway in “Kinky Boots,” “Miss Saigon” and “Phantom” and in national tours of “Les Miserables” and “Phantom.”

“When we did the original tour of ‘Phantom’ together, we were just friends,” says Moldovan.

The cast of the touring production in Pittsburgh also features Quentin Oliver Lee as The Phantom, Eva Tavares as Christine Daaé, Jordan Craig as Raoul, David Benoit as Monsieur Firmin, Rob Lindley as Monsieur André, Susan Moniz as Madame Giry, Phumzile Sojola as Ubaldo Piangi and SarahGrace Mariani as Meg Giry.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review
contributing writer.

Alastair Muir
The masquerade scene from “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Matthew Murphy
The Corps de Ballet in Hannibal with choreography by Scott Ambler in “The Phantom of the Opera” playing at The Benedum Center Feb. 20-March 3.