It’s been three decades since “The Phantom of the Opera” first wreaked its musical vengeance on Southern California, and we haven’t heard much from the masked marauder lately. But he’s returned in a powerful revival at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, albeit for an all-too-brief visit.
The soaring crescendos of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber are once again prominent, matched by the haunting lyrics of Charles Hart which play second fiddle but deserve equal attention.
This rendition, billed as a “new production,” doesn’t deviate noticeably from the original, except that it’s a shade darker — not dramatically but technically. The show transpires almost in half-light with the Phantom’s visage nearly concealed from view.
Musically, the show soars, with some extraordinarily strong voices in the supporting ranks as well as the those of the two leading characters. The dark hues increase the aura of late 19th-century French melodrama which pervades as the title character conducts his murderous rampage.
Derrick Davis makes a particularly loathsome Phantom as he establishes his dominion over the Paris Opéra House while nursing the career of a chorus member thrust uncomfortably into the spotlight. His vocal prowess is absolute, especially when he offers the show’s anthem, “The Music of the Night.”
The role of his protégé, Christine Daaé, is so demanding that it’s divided among four actresses, alternating during the Costa Mesa portion of the tour. The top-billed Eva Tavares appeared on opening night and showcased a magnificent display of vocal quality, highlighted by her poignant tribute to her dead father, “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.”
Her prospective lover, Raoul, is portrayed with appropriate stiffness of bearing by Jordan Craig who, during his declaration of amour, is positioned halfway across the stage from Christine, almost as if he were under a restraining order. He grows stronger in the second act when the conflict is life-threatening.
The company’s prima donna soprano, Trista Moldovan, exhibits a world-class voice, even though hers is meant to be a secondary talent. Susan Moniz exudes matriarchal menace as the ballet mistress who alone knows the Phantom’s back story.
Strong support is delivered by David Benoit and Rob Lindley as the perplexed new owners of the opera house. Phumzile Sojola adds some needed comic relief as the company’s erratic leading male singer.
And, oh yes, there’s that chandelier. Playgoers who expect to see it crashing down onto the stage may be disappointed since it now stops in midflight, hovering over the audience. It’s still a spectacular effect.
Director Laurence Connor has established an overall mood of tension, aided by Scott Ambler’s smooth choreography and particularly by Paule Constable’s creepy lighting effects and Mick Potter’s eerie sound design.
“The Phantom of the Opera” remains a powerful concoction of music and drama.
IF YOU GO
What: “The Phantom of the Opera”
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Closing performances Sunday at 1 and 6:30pm
Cost: Starts at $40
Call: (714) 556-2787; scfta.org
Tom Titus reviews local theater for TimesOC.