Let’s get the really big elephant out of the room…
Even after 30 years, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical The Phantom of the Opera is as pleasing to the eye and the ear as it was at its London premier in 1986.
In some respects even more so.
Because owing to advancements in technology, today’s Phantom no long relies on the spectacular dropping of the musical’s infamous, massive chandelier for high drama. In addition to the significant advancements in staging, enough pyrotechnics have been added to the mix that signs as you enter the theater warn patrons not to panic during the many explosions and gunfire.
Not a bad thought during terrorist times.
And while it shouldn’t surprise that songs like “Think of Me,” “Masquerade” and “The Music of the Night” hold up so well given the passage of time, the plot itself of The Phantom is a little thin, so the new backdrops and choreography help move things along swimmingly.
That said, I offer a warning to those, who like me, wait until the last minute to obtain their ducats while bypassing high dollar scalper prices.
Things can drag a bit from the cheap seats.
So if you find yourself in the back row of the theater – even on the floor – expect to pay a price. Because as good as the staging and music is, the degree of difficulty in sorting out some of the dialogue and not being able to actually see the expressions on the actor’s faces – or even the infamous Phantom mask and his disfigured face when Christine rips it off, leaves much to be desired.
Opera glasses, anyone?
Which brings us to the other elephant, the one that’s never addressed by mainstream theater critics like the Star’s Robert Butler, who was situated in choice seats close to the stage.
With rare exception, the ability to appreciate live performances – outside of football, baseball and soccer anyway – can be largely dependent upon one’s proximity to the stage.
Which explains why most Broadway theaters in the Big Apple are closer to half the size or less of Kansas City’s Music Hall.
Meaning that the absolute worst seat in the house to see The Phantom of the Opera in NYC – even though it’s playing at one of Broadway’s largest theaters – if far and away superior to the seats that a third of local theater patrons will find themselves in.
Let’s take it a step further.
Concert promoters – even sports teams – long ago made the calculation that if people were going to shell out big bucks, they needed to be offered a halfway decent view of the action via humongous video screens that provide close ups of the performers and performances.
Even in the early days of the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium – when video technology was in its infancy, embarrassingly so when you think back upon it – replays were available above the giant end zone scoreboard.
The term diminutive term”nosebleed” – as applied to far distant seating from the stage – did not come about by accident. And while floor level seating is unlikely to cause actual nosebleeds, it can be and is disheartening.
Not however for the just out of college dude seated next to me who got last minute, free tickets from a friend. For him, it was a glass half full and a performance he may never forget.
However for theatergoers who contemplate choking out reasonably big bucks to take their family out for dinner and a show downtown and want to relive the magic of even the Phantom movie, eh, there are lots of alternative entertainment options.
One possible solution:
Either play smaller venues or curtain off the cheap seats as they often do at Sprint and limit the seating to 900 to 1,200 capacity like on Broadway so everybody – including the hoi polloi – have a first class experience…not just the folks who shell out big bucks and theater critics.