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What? Phantom Arrives Again

March 21st 1991
Written for The Daily Cougar (University of Houston) by Eva Marusak

The Music Hall presents yet another musical interpretation of Gaston Leroux's classic The Phantom Of The Opera.

For those who haven't been paying attention the story goes like this: Christine, a chorus girl in the Paris opera, takes singing lessons from a Phantom instructor and gets a lead role in an opera.

However, her performance is thwarted by one devious device or another, which outrages the Phantom. He kills a few people, kidnaps Christine and finally dies in the arms of his beloved student -- the end, run the credits.

But to keep things interesting, the Music Hall's version has thrown in a brother for the Phantom. The two worked together for the Persian emperor and the Phantom attempted to have his brother killed.

After the attempt failed, the Phantom runs off to Paris and falls in love with Christine's beautiful voice. The story continues from there.

Although this story is basically the same as the others, the Phantom's character is interpreted differently. One normally pities this poor, talented man, shunned because of a horrid birth defect, who's a nice guy except for his face.

This London stage musical portrays the Phantom as a deadly and sinister killer who refuses to let anything come between him and Christine. Murder and death seem to be the norm in this rendering.

To his credit, this Phantom is ghost-like with appearances that are brief and unrevealing. The audience is treated to a glimpse of the Phantom's hands or an ominous shadow, but that's all. It is only toward the end that we get a lingering look at this terrible opera spectre.

Steve Blanchard gives a convincing performance as the Phantom. He lurks about the stage and throughout the theater, scaring both patrons and actors. His voice is clear and crisp, yet at times it sounds a bit lounge-lizardish.

Blanchard's talent lies in his ability to communicate emotions through precise hand movements and body gestures. When the Phantom's deformity is revealed, Blanchard twists his body into gross disfigurements.

A long blond wig denotes the only light in the Phantom's dark demeanor and Blanchard uses it to the fullest. His radiant mane is kept hidden under a black, broad-rimmed hat until the climax when the Phantom finds happiness in death.

Eileen McNamara plays Christine, a major character in the musical. Yet, McNamara somehow down plays the role. The character is seen often enough but leaves no impact upon the audience.

McNamara's acting is soft and forgettable. Her tragic scenes are unemotional and flat. Sadly, McNamara's singing is quiet and frequently drowned out by more powerful voices.

Serena Soffer is a treat in the minor role of Jammes, a ballerina at the opera. Her light-hearted character uses her feet where most would use their hands. Emotion and mood are captured with a mere thrust of her toes.

Despite a few flawed performances, The Phantom Of The Opera is a good show filled with fantastic music and lively entertainers.