Must See: The Phantom of the Opera in Philadelphia through Nov. 12

-Marialena Rago
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

Phantom of the Opera is up there with Les Mis as one of the best shows ever,” I heard this past Friday night from an audience member at the Kimmel Center’s Academy of Music.

And it really is.

The Phantom of the Opera is the longest running Broadway show, an essential piece of musical theater that one must see. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit production is coming up on its 30th year on Broadway, with more then 12,000 performances and countless national and world tours. Actually, to say it is a hit is an understatement; it’s a phenomenon. That phenomenon has come back to Philadelphia in a new stage production currently running at the Academy of Music.

The story centers around Christine Daaé, a chorus girl taught by her “angel of music” who she believes was sent to her by her late father. In reality, it is the Opera Ghost or Phantom of the Opera who has been haunting the Opera Populaire for three years. The Phantom is in love with Christine and becomes increasingly jealous of her lover, Raoul. Christene has to choose between the man who inspired her or the love of her life.

The show contains some of the best musical theater songs ever written, with familiar classics like “The Phantom of the Opera”, “Masquerade” and the beautiful “Music of the Night”. Nothing about the songs have changed, but Hal Prince’s original direction has been swapped out and replaced by direction from Laurence Connor (School of Rock, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon). Longtime producer Cameron Mackintosh is still on board and, with Connor, they present a timeless show for a new audience.

There are some noticeable differences- the “Masquerade” scene is not on stairs, but in a room of mirrors. The iconic boat on the water scene is a bit shorter than the original. That isn’t to say that Connor didn’t have some moments that elevated the show. For example, projections are used in this production and they work to really move the show forward.

Nothing can beat an original, but just as important as the direction is, of course, the cast- this ensemble is a great one in such demanding parts. Derrick Davis is an amazing Phantom. He makes you care about him, but despise him at the same time. Jordan Craig as Raoul can be a bit over dramatic, and Kaitlyn Davis as Christine is sweet and innocent as ever with high notes that can bring chills down anyone’s spine.

The Phantom of the Opera, one of the best productions ever to grace the Great White Way, is here now at the Academy of Music until November 12th.

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