Who knew what hydraulic wonders lurked in the catacombs of Munster, Ind.? With Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's Phantom, director William Pullinsi unveils a technical marvel that brings the underground aboveground. The phantom's lair below a Parisian opera house ascends and descends, appearing and disappearing with the swift, silent efficacy of a spy submarine. Set designer Andrew LaSalle goes to town with these dueling worlds, crafting an ominous labyrinth of massive cogs and precarious scaffolding that allow the Opera Ghost's shenanigans to appear suitably otherworldly.
Playwright: Arthur Kopit ( book ) ,
Maury Yeston ( music and lyrics )
At: Theatre at the Center,
1040 Ridge, Munster, Ind.
Phone: 800-511-1552; $36, $40
Runs through: Aug. 17
As for the rest of the show, it sounds gorgeous and Yeston's score is far richer than the bombastic, superficial hooks of that other musical based on Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel. But Kopit's book reduces the story to campy melodrama and a series of tired tropes: The pure-hearted, dewy young virgin in white is pitted against the conniving, shopworn, hatchet-faced harridan in black. The handsome hero battles the hissing villain to save the damsel fluttering in distress. Frankly, we've developed an intolerance for patriarchal inanity over the years. Kopit's book is rife with it.
Take ( please ) Christine Daae ( a silver-voiced Johanna McKenzie Miller ) . When the story starts, she's selling songs on a Paris street corner. Although she possesses a heart-melting soprano, it never occurs to her to do something with that magnificent gift until the dashing Count Philippe ( an immensely pleasing Jeremy Rill ) literally takes her by the hand and points her toward the opera. The plot is essentially the battle between two men—Philippe and the Phantom—for control over Christine, a child-like girl of a woman who at one point has to be swept up into the arms of her man and carried because she can't even walk on her own. Granted, she's been drugged, but still: Only the ninniest of bobble-headed birdbrains would have fallen for the ruse that allowed that bit of subterfuge to take place.
As the Phantom, Larry Adams sounds fine but gives a performance that's all but interchangeable with his other turns as the mature leading men in any number of Rodgers and Hammerstein shows. Things aren't helped by Jim Sherman as Phantom-enabler and fired opera house manager Gerard Carrier. You could walk the plank on his recitative delivery—it's that wooden. ( Also: Why is he wearing a contemporary suit when everybody else is dressed in period costumes? )
Only Marilyn Bogetich installs anything resembling authenticity into her character. As diva-from-hell La Carlotta, she's the one whose story you really want to hear.