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.