Fan Review - Elizabeth

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Where: Broadway
When: August 5th, 2004
This was my first time ever being in New York and so, obviously, it was my first time seeing Phantom on Broadway (although I'd seen it twice in Los Angeles).
I never could have expected how amazing the show would be. I had emailed Julie Hanson prior to coming to NY, because I knew that she gave tours if you asked in advance, and she is very sweet!.

The Phantom: Hugh Panaro
Christine: Julie Hanson (She was the main Christine that week and Susan Owen was the alternate as Sandra Joseph was on vacation)
Raoul: John Cudia
Firmin: Jeff Keller
Andre: George Lee Andrews
Carlotta: Kris Koop (u/s)
Madame Giry: Sally Williams
Piangi: David Gaschen (u/s)
Meg: Polly Baird (u/s)

Other swings/understudies on:

Buquet: Scott Mikita

The Jeweler/Marksman: Matthew R. Jones

I had seen the touring company twice in LA, plus I had discovered the soundclips thread on, so I knew the show very well. From the sound clips, I thought I was prepared for Hugh and Julie’s performances.

The moment the Prologue began I knew this would be the best Phantom performance I would ever see. I noticed not only Firmin and Andre in the auction scene, but Madame Giry as well, which I’d never been close enough to notice before.

Well, the overture was fabulous, but there’s not much variety there. Upon Kris Koop’s first entrance as Carlotta I knew I liked her more than any Carlotta I had ever seen or heard. The ballet was wonderful, the quality of dancers in NY must be a lot better than on the tour.

I enjoyed David Gaschen thoroughly as Piangi. He had a fresher take on the role than Larry Wayne Morbitt, who I’ve heard infinite times, and I found myself laughing at all the Piangi jokes like I’d never heard then before.

Two side notes:

1. The slave master in Hannibal is so funny!
2. Madame Giry was instructing the ballerina’s and sort of keeping time for music for the dancers. I can’t describe it, but it was great.

And then Julie ran in from the wings. She looked distracted; as if listening for the Phantom. During Carlotta’s Think Of Me, she did not mouth along the words like Lisa Vroman did, but I liked it better without.

I prefer Polly Baird to Heather McFadden. During the rehearsal, Polly was hanging around Julie and giggling with her when Raoul’s name was mentioned. Also when she volunteered Christine to sing, she did it very strongly. Her voice is also much better; Heather has been off key every time I’ve heard her.

Okay, so Think of Me was great, nice and quiet then building up to the big finish.

Angel of Music was wonderful. Instead of looking hypnotized at the Phantom’s voice, Julie looked scared, which is much more realistic. As I said, Polly has a much better voice than Heather so the song part went quite well.

Little Lotte was very nice. You could see Christine wanted to be around Raoul and go to dinner with him, but the whole scene Julie kept looking around nervously….very good.

The Phantom’s first lines in The Mirror were just incredible, and I liked how Julie eased into being hypnotized. That’s a big problem with some Christines, it happens too fast. The title song was great but it was obviously pre-recorded.

MOTN was absolutely phenomenal. Hugh is probably the best Phantom ever…….and again, most Christine’s overdo that scene, but Julie didn’t overplay it and act like the Phantom was wildly seducing her. It was light, but you could tell his music was affecting her.

Now Stranger than you dreamt it was absolutely amazing. The Phantom was really into composing . When Julie grabbed his mask off and saw his face you could tell how horrified she was….and he was ANGRY…..some Phantom’s do the whole thing all whiney, but Hugh was angry up until “Damn you, curse you!” then he gave this amazing chuckle that scared me to death, and was cynical until “Fear can turn to love”, then he completely broke down.

Notes was great…..When are George Lee Andrews and Jeff Keller not amazing? Never. I’ve said it one and I’ll say it again, I prefer Kris Koop and David Gaschen to the main performers.

Il Muto was funny… Kris’ croaking was great and it was nice to see the Phantom lurking up above the angel statue…that’s very hard to notice.

The ballet was good; Eric Odette kept thumping the stick he was dancing with like it was the whip from the first scene…..very funny.

All I Ask of You…..absolutely wonderful. This is my favorite song, although I’m in the minority that actually likes R/C. Julie and John played it very much in love, although she was a bit cautious at first…then gradually loosed up.

The All I Ask of You Reprise…..phenomenal…I don’t know how Hugh does it.

Masquerade was beautiful: It was nice to see all the action so close up and Raoul and Christine were so cute flirting during the whole song. Also, that bit where Christine keeps seeing dancers that look like the Phantom finally made sense. Hugh’s entrance was great.

Notes II was very tense, which is a good thing. You could see Julie trying to control her nerves before shouting “I won’t do it!” Also, when Carlotta insulted her, so got very ANRGY, ….. Madame Giry seemed very sensitive to Christine’s feelings…very nice.

Rehearsal for Don Juan….average….though the piano didn’t play correctly….Technical difficulties...

Julie’s WYWSHA was heartbreaking… could see how torn she was at the end over the joy of releasing herself from the phantom, but the sadness of letting go of her father’s memory.

Hugh’s voice in Wandering Child was amazing…childlike, yet hypnotizing….you could see Julie kind of shake herself off when John came in like she was trying to snap out of it.

I loved the Point of No Return. It was so seductive and sexy that the whole audience was squirming. And Christine’s horror when she realized that the Phantom was under the hood was great.

One complaint: I do not understand why Christine puts the ring on her own finger. It’s like saying “sure I’ll be yours, but I have to rip your mask off first!”

The final lair was breathtaking. You could tell that C. and P. had both lost it completely. Hugh is INCREDIBLE ….and when he punjabed Raoul you could tell just how angry Julie was….and actually focused on Raoul. When she realized what she needed to do to free Raoul and kissed the Phantom it was amazing. So was John’s expression.

Kiss: Hugh seemed afraid to put his arms around her and kind of staggered around for a while. He was like a child with the music box and the end and didn’t play with the veil as much, which is good, because it is very overdone.

When she came back to return the ring…she didn’t do this whole sobby “I want to stay!” thing, but there was defiantly a very powerful moment there. Again, another technical difficulty: the chair didn’t click all the way, so when it did you heard a loud clank, but at least Hugh wasn’t still in the chair when Polly lifted the cape!

All in all the most amazing production I ever will see: Watching the scenes really tied everything together that I had missed in LA.

Okay, so the show ended. I walked out of the theatre and to the stage door. The people coming out of the stage door were going so fast you couldn’t stop them to compliment them! Julie finally came out, and I realized how different she looks offstage. Her whole face looks different! She said hi, and then went to get the two other people who were touring with me and my father, who had seen the show with me. She was a great tour guide!

The first thing we saw was the stage managers station with its monitors of the stage. Then she took us on the stage itself, which was pretty cool. I got to stand where she stands during Think of Me and, of course, I didn’t want to move . She pointed out all the trapdoors on the stage for the various candles, exits, etc.

We then proceeded into the left wings, where we saw the mirror, boat, and dressing room sets stored. During this I tried to look smart and use some of my useless POTO info

Me: Oh, was the title song on playback tonight?
Julie: It is every night.
Me (trying to get back on track): Er….I….isn’t it sometimes sung live?
Julie (staring): Not on Broadway, on the tour, I guess.

She then proceeded, to explain the doubles situation in the title song. The first two crossings are doubles; some good information came out of this. The Phantom doubles are the two male dancers, and the Christine doubles are one ballerina and one female ensemble. Then right before they appear in the boat, the real Phantom and Christine cross the bridge (which I walked across myself).

Anyways, then we went below where the aforementioned bridge, and the candles are stored. They come up on a hydraulic elevator system. We also saw the fog machine and the Masquerade dummies. Also the spot backstage where Raoul and Christine sing their part in the AIAOY Reprise while watching the monitor and the mausoleum set.

Then we walked into the costume and makeup area where they had headshots plastered everywhere. Julie explained that every time someone leaves the show, their headshot goes up. We saw the men’s and women’s dressing rooms (I noted how organized everything was, the props were in little plastic tubs, as were the loose costume pieces), saw the costumes, and then went into the wig room. Note: Julie, Sandra, and Kris have two wigs that they share. Susan Owen has her own. The only one in the show that wears his own hair is Raoul.

That concluded the tour. I thanked Julie profusely, gave her a little souvenir teddy bear I’d bought in California, and she seemed delighted, gave me a hug, signed my playbill, and said goodnight.