Two days before the 2014 Tony Awards, we sat down in the theatre ready to see a show we had been anticipating ever since casting was announced. Of course in this season of must-see performances, we were ready to see Norm Lewis and Sierra Boggess in The Phantom of the Opera!
It was Emily’s first time seeing the show, Patty’s second, and we weren’t disappointed. First, we have to say we do not understand how anyone takes this show seriously. It is not romantic; The Phantom is a murderer! And Christine just seems confused. At one point, she throws a fit, insisting she will not participate in The Phantom’s opera, but in the next scene, she shows up to rehearsal with no explanation. It’s also hard to tell whether we’re to believe The Phantom can do magic or is just a very talented “inventor.” The main characters aren’t the show’s only distraction. When the set changes aren’t ridiculously long, they are basically just curtains opening and closing. And oftentimes, there are actors waiting behind those curtains or set pieces for huge stretches of time. Norm Lewis was hanging above the audience for the entirety of “All I Ask of You.”
It’s hard to say how casts have played the drama in Phantom over its thousand year reign (really 26 years), but this superb cast really seems to understand the gothic melodrama of it all. Let’s talk about Ellen Harvey’s fantastic Madame Giry. Her deliberate and dramatic line readings really set an ominous tone. And Michelle McConnell and Christian Sebek delightfully played Carlotta and Piangi, the diva and divo of the opera, with great flair. The ensemble did a great job whipping back and forth between the show’s almost farcical comedy to its intense drama. One minute they are dancing at a masquerade, and the next recoiling in horror as The Phantom stands inches away (yet no one bothers to try and grab him).
And leading this ensemble were Norm Lewis and Sierra Boggess as The Phantom and Christine Daae. As usual, the title number seemed to be tracked, which was disappointing. But throughout the rest of the show, Norm and Sierra did not disappoint. Sierra effortlessly sang Christine’s many songs, ringing with a clear soprano. Not to mention keeping up the hood to her cape. And Norm really got the over-the-top desperation of The Phantom, sometimes even playing him like a whiny child. These two phenomenal actors kept us interested, even as the story lead to some pretty crazy places. Just don’t think too hard about the fact that they once played father and daughter.
In the end, as the curtain came down, the crowd in the Majestic Theatre rose to their feet, having loved every minute of it. And while it might not be one of our favorite shows, to be able to have seen these two performers and the cast around them was truly an experience.