By Manning Harris

It’s magnificent, and you have to see it—especially if you never have before.  But even if you have, this superb company will give you “the illusion of the first time,” as theatre folk say.  I refer, of course, to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” playing at the Fox through July 18.  (Check your tickets, because a scheduling snafu originally showed it running until July 25; it’s not.)

For sheer romantic grandeur, “Phantom” is unbeatable.  It’s not the longest-running Broadway show in history for nothing.  And it touches people in powerful, unexpected ways.  For example, have you lost someone you loved?  Christine’s second act “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again,” soaring and exquisite, will sneak up on you and knock you flat.  And haven’t we all worn a mask (metaphorical perhaps) at some time or other, thinking we weren’t good enough or pretty enough?

The singing is sublime:  I have nothing but admiration and gratitude for Tim Martin Gleason’s Phantom; for Trista Moldovan’s Christine (this young woman even looks like Vivien Leigh, at least from Row S); for Sean MacLaughlin’s Raoul; and for Kim Stengel’s Carlotta.  If I could sing like any of these people, I would be simply unbearable.  Mr. Gleason and Ms. Moldovan’s duet “All I Ask of You” will have you seeing God, and I mean no disrespect—quite the contrary.

The aforementioned admiration and gratitude extend to this beautiful cast; and to the lush, gorgeous orchestra.  They extend to Harold Prince’s direction and to Gillian Lynne’s staging and choreography; to Gaston Leroux’s book; and even to a very famous chandelier…

You’ve heard me squawk from time to time that the Fox is really too big for legitimate (live) theatre.  I still believe that; however, “Phantom” is perhaps the one show that I’ll make an exception for.  It’s set, as you probably know, in a theatre, and not just any theatre:  the very grand Paris Opera.  And darned if our incredible old Moorish-Egyptian movie palace (now theatre) isn’t the perfect venue for this show.  Go and see for yourself.

You may have heard people say that Andrew Lloyd Webber is old hat, or that “Phantom” is old-fashioned romanticism.  I’ll not join in that argument, except to say that this show has been running on Broadway since 1988 and has played to millions around the world (the 2004 movie was unfortunate; this is a creation for the live stage).  Talk instead to the people who have seen “Phantom” many times.  Then go buy a ticket—fast.

They say this is the “farewell tour” of “The Phantom of the Opera.”  I doubt that.  But just in case—go and be thrilled.

www.FoxTheater.org or www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.