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The Phantom: Meet Him in St. Louis

February 1st-7th 1988
Written for TheatreWeek magazine by Peter Filichia




The Repertory Theater of St. Louis hosted the American premiere of the first musical Phantom

Speaking of that mike, it brings up another difference: though Michael Crawford appears quite early in the Lloyd Webber/Hart/Stilgoe version, this Phantom did not appear until deep in the second act. Until then, only his voice was heard (albeit in every nook and cranny of the theater, thanks to a reverb mike used a la Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors). Only when Christine and Raoul are singing their big love song in the cemetery did the Phantom, amid the shadows, enter while pretending to be a statue on the roof (though he couldn't help but join in on the trio part).

But when the Phantom did appear, the St. Lou audieiences felt it was worth the wait. Sal Mistretta, seen here in such Prince productions as On the Twentieth Century and Evita, was a most menacing presence. His mask was not the familiar logo we've seen on the Majestic marquee, the cover of Time, and the sides of telephone booths; in fact, it took a while before he had his ideal Phantom mask. The first one employed could be described as a combination of commedia and 20th century clown. "It seemed too carnival-ish," Vos recounts. A more chill-producing mask of leather ("A sarong with eyes cut out" is how Brasser described it) did the trick. Coupled with Mistretta's wild wig of Beethoven-like hair, the Phantom looked scary enough to, well, haunt a house.