Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: 'Phantom The Las Vegas Spectacular' at the Venetian

Kristi Holden and Anthony Crivello
(production photos: Joan Marcus and Isaac Brekken)
You'll never see anything like this again. Ever. That statement plastered on ad copy for 'Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular' is no understatement. Since this amped-up version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical opened six years ago, the production dazzles audiences at the almost every turn from the moment they enter the elegant Phantom Theatre (meant to resemble a Parisian Opera House) custom built to house the musical.

At a break-neck 95 intermission-less minutes versus the original Broadway version that runs two and half hours with an interval, not one song of Lloyd Webber's famous score is lost. Even super fans of the show will not notice many of the moments excised for this version.

Based on the novel "The Phantom of the Opera" by Gaston Leroux, the musical tells the story of the Phantom, a disfigured musical genius, who haunts the Paris Opera. The Phantom falls in love with the young soprano Christine Daae devoting himself to creating a new star by exerting a control over her and those who stand in his way including Raoul who has rekindled a romance with Christine.

The original creative team including director Harold Prince, lighting designer Andrew Bridge and Paul Kelly adapting the designs of the late Maria Bjornson used the Vegas version as a way to invigorate the production and in a way improve upon the original. They are in no small way aided by the contributions of theatre designer and special effects consultant David Rockwell and illusions designer Jim Steinmeyer.

Andrew Ragone and Kristi Holden
The company in "Masquerade" number.

One of the most stunning achievements is the amazing chandelier that is suspended in five huge pieces above the audience. As the familiar overture begins these pieces tilt, move and glide to become one massive centerpiece of the auditorium. Its crash is even made more dramatic by this moment being correctly moved towards the latter half of the story. When it does crash, some audience members will definitely be gasping in terror. The effect is far different than in the original version.

Even the look of the three mini-operas ("Hannibal," "Il Muto" and "Don Juan Triumphant") within this musical have been tweaked that the sets and costumes sparkle even more than original designs. And the rooftop scene for Christine and Raoul love duet "All I Ask Of You" is heightened romantically under the reworked lighting.

All new for this production is a gilded facsimile of the Paris Opera House facade that glows under fireworks before the spectacular grand staircase makes it appearance for the crowd-pleasing "Masquerade" ensemble number.

One of the greatest fixes in this version is the trap that the Phantom uses to ensnare Raoul. Rather than a noose that was never believable in the original, the Phantom now employs a terror cage that truly renders Raoul helpless to help his beloved Christine.

Anthony Crivello and Kristi Holden

The company during the "Il Muto" segment.
The company during "Hannibal".
If there is only one fault of this condensed 'Phantom' it is the swift pace of the storytelling. It does not allow for any full emotional development of the love-triangle that is nurtured by the actors in the original version. But this production was meant to astonish the audience with its design and special effects and it accomplishes that in spades.

It is a credit to the cast that they successfully harness theatergoers' attention from the bountiful sights and sounds this spectacular offers to tell the love story that is at the heart of Leroux's novel. None of the roles have been rewritten for the Vegas 'Phantom' production. Anthony Crivello has played the role from the very beginning when he was one of two actors alternating in the role. Now he haunts the Phantom Theatre for the full eight shows a week and will play the role when the production closes this fall.

Crivello may not have the stature of some other actors who have tackled the role, but he brings his Broadway caliber talent and tenor to his scenes. Kristi Holden never throws a moment away by holding her dramatic weight as Christine. Some lyrics of "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" have been cut but "Think of Me" is retained in full and Holden sings wonderfully in both. Andrew Ragone as Raoul tackles the thankless role of Raoul displaying a dashing stature in the part. Among the ensemble Joan Sobell, as the opera diva Carlotta, is particularly entertaining to watch.

For all the gimmicks this 'Phantom' holds its the music by Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe that still remains lush and is the string upon which the sets and effects are displayed. Watching this 'Phantom' is like a carnival ride. It happens with a thrilling sleekness that one just wants to take repeat the experience to either soak in the feeling all over again or to see what one may have missed.
  • Website:
  • Venue: Phantom Theatre at The Venetian
  • Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
  • When: Mon-Sat 7pm; Mon & Sat 9:30pm
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 10 min (with eight minute pause)
  • Ticket Prices: $81-$177 (VIP tickets $250)
  • Opening: Jun 25, 2006 (previews from Jun 4, 2006)
  • Closing: Sep 9, 2012
  • Book Online:
  • Reservations: 702-414-9000 / 866-641-7469
Kristi Holden and Andrew Ragone.
Anthony Crivello and Kristi Holden
Anthony Crivello
Andrew Ragone and Kristi Holden


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