Review: The Exquisite ‘Phantom of the Opera’ Wows at the Marcus Center

See it at the Marcus Center through March 17.

British theater producer Cameron Mackintosh has brought his elaborate production of The Phantom of the Opera, complete with world-class actors, striking special effects, exquisite costumes and stunning sets to the Milwaukee stage.

Based on the 1911 novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, the iconic tale of gothic horror, romance and Parisian theater was made wildly popular in 1986, when renowned composers Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe and lyricist Charles Hart adapted the story into a musical.

Phantom continues to be a crowd-pleaser for audiences of all ages — Friday night’s performance at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts appeared to be sold out. Directed by Laurence Connor (Miss Saigon) the production featured a cast of more than three dozen.

With a commanding stage presence and rich baritone voice, yet easily maintaining vulnerability, Quentin Oliver Lee (Prince of Broadway) gave an arresting performance of the enigmatic Phantom, a creature marred by physical deformities and deeply wounded from a lifetime of rejection and cruelty. Bitter at the world, the Phantom haunts an old Paris theater and seeks revenge on those who fail to do his bidding.

Quentin Oliver Lee as The Phantom of the Opera. Photo Credit Matthew Murphy

The dulcet-voiced Kaitlyn Davis performed her role as ingenue soprano Christine Daae, (a role also performed by Emma Grimsley and Eva Tavares) object of the Phantom’s obsession, with the perfect balance of sweetness and ironclad determination, while Jordan Craig (Carmen), with his pleasant tenor voice, easily stepped into the role as the dashing Raoul, Christine’s childhood friend and love interest. 

The superb supporting cast included Rob Lindley (Funnyman) as Monsieur Andre and David Benoit (Young Frankenstein) as Monsieur Firman, businessmen who purchase the Parisian theater and become exasperated with the Phantom’s antics. Among other fabulous performances were Trista Moldovan (Bridges of Madison County) as diva Carlotta Giudicelli, Phumzile Sojola (The Crucible) as opera singer Ubaldo Piangi, Susan Moniz (Grease) as the superstitious Madame Giry and Sarahgrace Mariani (An American in Paris) as Christine’s close companion and cheerleader Meg Giry.

Choreography by Scott Ambler (Swan Lake), including ballet scenes, added a lively element to the performance.

Complemented by Webber and David Cullen’s sweeping orchestrations, the cast performed Webber’s gorgeous musical numbers effortlessly, from the lush, melancholy “The Music of the Night,” to ballad “All I Ask of You” and titular piece, the dramatic “Phantom of the Opera.”

The production’s elegant costumes, including many velvet and bejeweled dresses and capes, and immaculately-tailored suits and top hats captured the opulence of French theater, a credit to Christine Rowland (Carousel), costume creator for designer Maria Bjornson, who passed away in 2002.

“The Phantom of the Opera” cast performs “Masquerade.” Photo credit Alistair Muir

Set designer Paul Brown’s (Aida) ornate, often revolving, scenery took the audience back in time to a late-19th Century Parisian opera house, a glamorous ballroom and several ostentatious theater productions, and into the macabre world of the Phantom’s underground lair. Fantastic lighting and sound design by Paule Constable (The War Horse) and Mick Potter (Evita), and brilliant special effects, including fog and a falling chandelier, coupled with pyrotechnics, created a deliciously spooky and exciting atmosphere.

Go See It: The Phantom of the Opera at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, through March 17.