by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
Photos by John Vecchiolla
Based on the classic novel Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, this Westchester Broadway Theatre (WBT) in Elmsford production derives from the book by Arthur Kopit, with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and music direction by Bob Bray. It is directed and choreographed by Tom Polum. This production is not the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, currently on Broadway, but is also based on the classic novel. This version has more dialogue to accompany the music, which superbly suits the production. The dialogue entwines the audience with the feelings and emotions of each character. Within moments of each actor stepping on stage, the audience is instantly drawn in to the hopes, dreams, plights and frustrations during each scene. This production features a large cast with about 23 performers, often some in dual roles and each actor was fantastic! I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding, creative scenery for this production, which is set in the ornate Parisian Opera House. The set is complete with balcony scenes and later switches to deep beneath the Opera to the eerie, sinister depths where the Phantom lives. Between the foreboding music from the live orchestra, the mist that rises beneath where the Phantom lives, the audience is transported at every turn! It’s a powerful, passionate and all around extraordinary show!
The story revolves around the central character Erik, (also known as the Phantom) that was born and raised in the catacombs under the Paris Opera House. Through a series of circumstances, he takes on as a pupil a young woman named Christine, who was a street singer. She has a natural talent and a beautiful voice, but she lacks the special training to perform in an Opera company. He agrees to take her on as a student with certain conditions, the main one being that she will never see his face. After a lot of hard work she eventually auditions for the company and is not only accepted but is given the opportunity to play a principal part in an Opera. Without realizing it, they fall in love with each other. As this story takes place in a play within a play the full cast has multiple costume changes and each one is ornate and breathtaking in their period pieces. From a French Louis XVI Court, complete with oversized gowns, outlandish hairstyles, feathers and exaggerated hats of that period, then scene changes to gold and glitzy Egyptian costumes, then Viking era, Phantom is one extraordinary, over the top production! Add to it the astounding special effects, realistic chases, locale changes, choreography and WBT’s Phantom is worthy of any award give to Broadway productions!
Casting is excellent and the two leads, Matthew Billman (as Erik; The Phantom) and Kayleen Seidl (Christine Daaé) had voices that gave chills as they sang. Tall, handsome (even under his mask) Billman’s commanding voice took over the stage and only the Phantom’s emotions of his plight surrounded the theatre. With dramatics of each of his comings and goings, with a swoop of his cape, back into the inner sanctions of the Opera House, it was impossible not to feel his pain of being born deformed and forced into this solitary life. Kayleen Seidl, as Christine, was equally suited as the newly discovered singer that the Phantom wants to train for stardom. From such a petite performer, Ms. Seidl’s beautiful voice was an equal match when they sang duets, easily earning her the title role in the production. The chemistry between the two was believable and hard not to root for this star crossed romance. Strong supporting roles included James Van Treuren (Gérard Carrière), who cared for the Phantom during his many years in hiding, Larry Luck (Count Philippe de Chandon) the other love interest of Christine, Sandy Rosenberg (Carlotta), Kilty Reidy (Alaine Cholet), Stuart Marland (Inspector Ledoux) Ryan Alexander Jacobs (Joseph Buquet) and Roger Preston Smith (Jean Claude) all added to the excellent casting for the storyline. We have been going to WBT productions for almost twenty years now and it is easy to say that Phantom, with the acting, singing, music, scenery, choreography and over the top special effects has moved into first place for the Best Show EVER! If you have never attended a WBT production or haven’t been there in awhile, go see this show! It runs until Nov 25th, then with a break for the WBT Holiday show, A Christmas Carol. Phantom resumes December 27 through January 27, 2019. Don’t miss it! Group Reservations: Discounts for Groups of 20 or More: Call (914) 592-2225. Ticket Prices: Dinner & Show range between $59.00 to $89.00 PLUS TAX. Discounts are available for children, students, and senior citizens at selected performances. Reservations: Call (914) 592-2222. Also at: www.BroadwayTheatre.com