The Phantom of the Opera: Wobbly sets can't derail new production

Mark Campbell as The Phantom and Julia Udine as Christine Daaé. 
Mark Campbell as The Phantom and Julia Udine as Christine Daaé. 
Photo by Matthew Murphy

Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera is a kind of Meatloaf song of a musical: Bold, gaudy, and a lot of stupid fun, even if it threatens to overstay its welcome near the end.

Wednesday evening, the new touring production added an element of Spinal Tap as a piece of scenery failed to comply.

Two scenes are set in the opera house's office. For these, a piece of the central set is revealed, with a pair of wings  making up the walls. Both times Wednesday night, one of these wings failed to hold in place, threatening to knock over the poor actors who (to their credit) stayed in character throughout, even if they occasionally had to give the set a subtle push.

Apart from providing a distraction during a pair of rather dull scenes, the moment could be taken as a metaphor for the wonky machinery that keeps this warhorse chugging along year after year. 

The new staging (with, despite the troubles, an inventive set by Paul Brown) adds some oil to the creaking joints of the play, as does a pair of terrific performances from Mark Campbell as the sexy-but-murderous Phantom and Julia Udine as young ingenue Christine Daae.

These two infuse plenty of passion into a pair of characters that, within the script and songs, are pretty much ciphers. Motivation doesn't get much beyond "I'm heartbroken" and "I'm angry," but the two provide plenty to make it work.

That's good, because there are many holes in the story and there are stretches where the whole show threatens to collapse under all of the portentous weight. The highlights -- from the "Phantom of the Opera"/"The Music of the Night" double feature in act one to the classic act-two opener, "Masquerade" -- work well, while the overheated final half of the second act provide enough drive to make whatever flaws we saw earlier fade away.


The Phantom of the Opera
Through Jan. 5
Orpheum Theatre
910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
For tickets and more information, call 1.800.859.7469 or visit online.
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Orpheum Theatre

910 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403


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