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A 'Phantom Of The Opera' With No Spoken Words

Curtis Crawford |
September 22, 2014 | 8:47 a.m. PDT


James Lynch as The Phantom. Photo by Johanna Siegmann.
James Lynch as The Phantom. Photo by Johanna Siegmann.
Upon entering the theater, one sees a bare stage, some scaffolding, two ladders on wheels and three screens. Not exactly what one pictures when going to see the timeless classic, "The Phantom of the Opera," yet from the moment the show starts, the space is transformed into a spectacle of dramatic and powerful storytelling.

Attempting to reinterpret any established work of art is daunting, especially with a tale as iconic as "The Phantom of the Opera." However, "Vox Lumiere's The Phantom of the Opera," now playing at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, does this in a way that is both exhilarating and mystifying.  This show features captivating song and dance, with music and lyrics by Kevin Saunders Hayes, set against the 1925 silent film directed by Rupert Julian. The synthesis of these varying elements, combined with imaginative and mesmerizing lighting designed by William Kirkham, creates an experience that is hauntingly beautiful.

With an eclectic variety of different music styles and genres, the show relies on powerful and intense musical numbers to convey the inner turmoil and conflict of the onscreen characters, with vocal performances that do not disappoint. The Phantom (James Lynch) steals the show with his powerful presence and masterful vocals. Lynch wonderfully personifies the tortured, yet incredibly narcissistic nature of the Phantom with a voice reminiscent of a heavy metal rock star that is not soon forgotten. Christine (played dually by Marisa Johnson and Victoria Levy) is shown to be much more complex than the classic story leads on. This is achieved by the differing yet equally enthralling styles of Johnson and Levy, with Johnson as a soprano and Levy as an alto. One of the most awe inducing performances of the show comes from the “Grand Dame” (Danielle Skalsky). Skalsky is able to vocalize words with such rapidity and grace, one cannot help but be wonderfully shocked. In contrast, the character of Raoul (D. Valentine) is downplayed greatly, and his few appearances on the stage lack conviction or depth. This is owing to the composition of the show rather than Valentine’s performance, which is still powerful.

SEE ALSO: Review: 'The Phantom Of The Opera' At The Pantages

Photo by Johanna Siegmann.
Photo by Johanna Siegmann.
The dancing and choreography (by Natalie Willes) make great use of the environment to achieve effects that are visually stunning. The ensemble performers not only personify the citizens that visit the opera, but offer captivating performances of sheer artistic splendor through their intricate dancing.

The visual effects are all very purposeful and enhance rather than cheapen the impact of the individual performances. They give the show a surreal yet deeply emotional visualization of very complex character traits. Even the steampunk costumes (designed by Sharell Martin) and hair (design by Kristy Staky) played an integral part of establishing and representing each character, adding layers of depth and personality. The angst and turmoil of many of the characters coincides marvelously with the radically different steampunk nature of the design of the show. With the character of Carlotta (Julie Brody), the extravagant clothing and ridiculously flamboyant hair capture her extreme vanity and ignorance.

Nothing about this show is traditional, with the entire theme being steampunk-opera, but this break from tradition is a mark of brilliance and artistic innovation.

'Vox Lumiere's Phantom Of The Opera' is playing through Dec. 13 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center (514 S. Spring St, Los Angeles). Tickets are $40-$75. For more information visit www.VoxLumiere.com

Reach Contributor Curtis Crawford here.

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