Review: The Phantom of the Opera, The Venetian, Las Vegas, 03/08/2011


When?: Wednesday 3rd August 2011
Where?: Centre orchestra, The Phantom Theatre, The Venetian Resort, Las Vegas
Who?: Anthony Crivello, Kristi Holden, Andrew Ragone, Arsenia Soto, John Leslie Wolfe, Lawson Skala, Tina Walsh, Larry Wayne Morbitt, Brianne Kelly Morgan, Bruce Ewing, Michael Lackey, Doug Carfrae, John Paul Almon, Marc Cedric Smith, Patrick Leveque, Dustin Layton, Donald Williams, Ian Jon Bourg, Randal Keith, Eric Braun, Steven Dietrich, Drisco Fernandez, Kevan Patriquin, Nicole Pryor, Sarah Elizabeth Combs, Emily Thrasher, Danielle White, Marcia Cope-Hart, Jordan Ashley, Joelle Gates, Erina Noda, Rebekah Raun, Marisa Paull, Deana Villei, Luke Lazzaro, Maureen Dodson, Benjamin Hale, Jacob Moody, Scott Watanabe

Oh dear. It promised so much and delivered so little. Has this lavish shortened Vegas production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera gone horribly and dramatically down hill in the five years it has been open – or was it always a big, soulless disappointment? The posters and billboards all over Vegas proudly declare “You’ve never seen it like this before” – and how right they were, but probably not in the way they intended. I’ve never seen the show looking so grand before, I’ve never seen the effects so, well, effective before and I’ve certainly never drank a bright pink cocktail during the Overture before. I have also never seen an entire cast so inept and disinterested before, musical direction so erratic before or paid so much for a seat before – approximately £80 each with a discount.  That works out at just below £1 a minute – and there wasn’t a minute I didn’t want it to end after the first few scenes.

The impressive purpose-built theatre setting is the only truly impressive aspect of this flashy Vegas Phantom*. Styled in a manner similar to the Paris Opera House, The Phantom Theatre within the Venetian complex is complete with several faux opera boxes and a truly enormous proscenium. Whilst the scale of the production is BIG, the cast clearly weren’t up to the task. A stifling 42 degrees outside, I might’ve blamed the soaring temperature for performances so phoned in – if it weren’t for the air conditioning blasting down on our heads. No. Sadly, whilst many of the actors perhaps were not the most talented in their field, a far more serious crime against the profession was taking place. Some actors clearly didn’t feel a Wednesday night performance in front of many disinterested guests who haven’t paid for their seats (Casino Comping) was worth trying an iota, leaving me and my group rather angry and bemused.

Heading up the cast was Anthony Crivello, a star turn in the wonderful Les Miserables TAC as Grantaire, but a below-average Phantom. In fact, Crivello was very poor on the night. Best described as a ‘struggling baritone’, Crivello really struggled to maintain any power when forced to sing the higher notes, unintentionally making the strained expression on his face look rather constipated as he squeezed out that big note in “The Music of the Night”. His acting alternated from disinterested suave to maniacal-axe-wielding almost every scene. Crivello, and specifically performances I have heard of him in Les Miz as both Javert and Grantaire and in Evita, was the reason we settled on Phantom and I can’t help but wonder whether Mr. Crivello was really the strongest candidate for the role, having seen him perform. Kristi Holden played Christine, whilst a little on the shrill side at times, Holden did well enough in the context of the cast and was the only cast member that would be up to the calibre of playing the part in either the superior West End or Broadway productions. Andrew Ragone is curiously and presumably unintentionally effeminate as Christine’s soon-to-be (if you believe Love Never Dies) violent alcoholic beau Raoul. Across the ensemble, I have seldom a good word other than I didn’t notice any missed cues or flubbed lines. They made their disinterest quite plain from the get-go.

The whole experience struck me as a missed opportunity as much as anything else. Whilst there were some more impressive moments in this production, it is not that far from and is modelled exclusively on the original production, despite being made some 20 years later. I find this disappointing as with the current technology available they could have done so much more. Clearly no expense was spared, yet the final product is just a slightly more glossy version of the original. Imagine the Phantom rowing Christine across an actual lake, or popping out in the audience – not too much of an ask by Vegas standards – instead we get more dry ice and more gold gilt and a slightly different chandelier.

- Harry Zing



*The Overture stood out as being particularly impressive as the one-of-a-kind chandelier assembles itself high over the audience in true “Vegas Spectacular” fashion. It is a shame the chandelier out-performed everyone else on stage on the night I attended.

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8 Responses to “Review: The Phantom of the Opera, The Venetian, Las Vegas, 03/08/2011”

  1. Karn Says:

    Totally agree! I saw it last year and the things that impressed me were the production but the cast were just disappointing. I never understand how Anthony Crivello has played that role for so long and yet so poor. I didn’t like Kristi Holden either at the performance I attended. On the other hand, I enjoyed Andrew Ragone the most. The 90-minute book totally ruined the audiences’ connection to the characters and storyline as things were very rushed through but I guess no one really cares for real arts in Vegas!

  2. […] the American soprano Sierra Boggess, co-star of Love Never Dies and original Christine in the Las Vegas production. Boggess has an excellent – dare I say – world class voice and oozes […]

  3. Mike Heisler Says:

    Mr. Zing, I cannot disagree more with your review. Anthony’s performance as Phantom has been amazing all 6 times I have seen him. On one performance he even had a cold so bad, he barely had a voice, and yet his performance was still captivating. “A struggling baritone”? Not true. Do you really believe that Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber would keep a struggling baritone in one of his productions? Hal Prince too?

    And calling Andrew Ragone’s performance as effeminate is absurd at best. Every person in that cast are each amazing performers.

    I think it is just another case of some snobby britt jealous that a cast from the USA took a masterpiece that is Phantom, and actually made it BETTER than the original. Perhaps you should see the show again, but this time remove your head from your bum so you can hear it better.

    • Harry Zing Says:

      Mr. Heisler, I cannot disagree more with your comment. As mentioned in the review, I had high hopes for Mr. Crivello, who I still value as a talented (if clearly bored and miscast) performer. I would have considered seeing the Las Vegas “Spectacular” again if comped, if it hadn’t posted early closing notices for September 2012 due to poor ticket sales. I suggest, as such a big fan of the production, that you book tickets now to avoid the disappointment of this production never, ever, surfacing again.

      Secondly, as to the Good Lord Lloyd Webber’s judgement, I think you will find that our “snobby Brit” tastes have changed collectively; Lloyd Webber is seen a bit of a joke in some areas of the British theatre press (God forbid not here though, honestly!) and as for his credibility with regards to the leverage he holds with casting of his productions, a very strong argument against Lloyd Webber’s involvement with casting ever can be seen here; (the clearly not-good-enough one is soon-to-be our London Phantom)

      The best performance of The Phantom of the Opera I have seen came from the superb Broadway production and starred Howard McGillin and Elizabeth Loyacano – the latter of which was promoted from the Vegas production to the Broadway production, which says a lot about what the producers considered the priority production of the two. With the Vegas production gone, I doubt very much we will be seeing Crivello don the mask on the Broadway stage.

      I, of course, value your feedback but do suggest that seeing the same (average) production six times in Las Vegas may well be a bit of a waste of both time and money and you may find better value booking a flight to NYC and seeing the real production in all its original glory.

      - Harry Zing

  4. […] many of the weaker scenes have been given little or no attention and I can’t help but feel, much like I did with the Vegas production which I reviewed last year, this is an opportunity missed. WHY is there still a player piano in this […]

  5. John Says:

    I just saw the show on the 18th and I agree with every word of your review.. Mr. Crivello was just horrible as the Phantom. I have seen the show over 15 times with various Phantoms and nothing beats Michael Crawford. Mr. Crivello was playing the Phantom like a 79 year old man….there is no way that Christine would ever have attraction to him. All of the actors seemed bored with their roles and it’s obvious that Mr. Prince has not come to see the show in years…….he would be cracking the whip left and right about how sloppy it has become. But again, Mr. Crivello just ruined the night with his horrible choices in playing the role…..why oh why did they ever cast him???

  6. Ahir Vora Says:

    I have got to say I really love your blog, the way you
    write is awe inspiring!

  7. Thierry Says:

    I saw this production with Sarah Elizabeth Combs as Christine. Man, was she beat. Was close to the end of the run so I don’t know if they all lost there mojo, but she didn’t have the essence of the character at all.

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