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Phantom of the Opera

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When one of the best-known of modern plays came to Columbus, as it does every few years, I went to see it again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 was a beautiful day to go out. A welcome break from the year's stifling heat left temperatures in the low-to-mid-seventies with relatively low humidity. After a usual (if short) day at work, Niki and I left the office to collect her sister, whom we would be taking with us.

As Andrea lives in Reynoldsburg, on the far east side of the Columbus area, we had a bit of a trek to make from the office to fetch her. Trying to do this at 5:30 p.m. on a weekday rarely makes for a good idea, and traffic on the I-270 outerbelt was abominable, a veritable glacier of cars slowly moving southward as they approach the Broad Street exit. As happens on extra special occasions, this congestion created such a mess that it even backed up I-670 as it dumps off to I-270 southbound. To describe how I feel about traffic with the word “hate” falls short. I need one stronger; I hnine traffic.

Once our party was assembled, we headed back to downtown to the vicinity of the Ohio Theatre, a beautiful and grand building nearly a century old. Traffic going back in to downtown was, of course, not a problem. We parked in the underground parking at Capitol Square, fetched our tickets from the Will Call window at the theater across the street and walked a block down State Street to the Capitol Square Hyatt, where we could enjoy a bite to eat and a drink before the show.

We found a table outside under the shade of trees, whose leaves would gently rustle as a cool breeze swept through the area. Nobody was especially hungry so we ordered a smallish pizza and opted for drinks. A margarita for Andrea, pinot noir for Niki, and a Belvedere vodka martini for me. The bad news is that we had to go into the bar to fetch our drinks because Hyatt has a braindead policy that no server under twenty-one, such as ours, may transport alcohol between the bar and tables. Outside, one could buy a “bucket of beer,” which was, in fact, five bottles of some dreadful domestic brew packed in ice. Apparently none of the beer-bucket barmen was equipped to assist our server and we were left on our own to fetch wine and cocktails from the bar inside.

The idiocy of the self-service policy was heightened by how incredibly long it took for us to get drink orders in at the bar and then to get the drinks made after being ordered. Perhaps I would not be so annoyed if not for the fact that the place was a sportsbar, complete with more television screens than people. The super-slow-self-service notwithstanding, the trip for food and drinks was worth it, and an excellent way to unwind before heading into the theater.

Once in the theater, it was clear that we weren't dealing with a usual production. A table of Phantom of the Opera merchandise had been erected just inside of the doors, offering everything from little buttons to fifty dollar compact discs of the music. I opted against any such expenditure.

Things improved significantly once we managed to find our seats. We arrived just a few minutes before the program started so we were comfortably seated and were able to get a quick view of the program notes just before the show got underway.

The Ohio Theatre is an excellent venue for the show, offering both good visibility and acoustics. Certain special effects—namely, the Phantom throwing his voice around the theater—work well there.

While a significant part of the audience was well-dressed for the occasion, I observed rather a disappointing number who made no effort whatsoever to participate in the making of a fine evening. As it turns out, the wearing of a bandanna over one's head rather complements the black Harley tee-shirt and blue jeans, but doesn't make for much in the way of elegance. One might be inclined to rush to judgment about the “young people” who dress so poorly, but such judgment would in fact be wrong: the primary offenders seem to be the fiftysomethings who are probably still living in 1968 and imagine that somehow or another, their fashion “sense” talks back to The Establishment. I, for one, think that thirty-five years of this piffle is quite enough, and we could do with a touch more formality in society.

Performance of Phantom of the Opera seems to me a tricky business. The show is well-known and has been discussed widely. This can be a dangerous predicament: the performance is not judged against other performances, but against expectations which can be irrationally high. Having seen the show twice already, my expectations were more in line with previous performances, and was in no way disappointed. It was performed well.

Perhaps the only gripe—really less of a grip and more of a question—I have with the performance is the one I have with every performance I've seen in person and on-screen, and always with the Phantom himself. Sometimes, I cannot help but wonder whether we're on the wrong side of the fine line between passion and melodrama. (In truth, the same thing happens sometimes when I'm at the opera, especially emotionally-charged shows like some written by Verdi and Puccini.) The good news is that I quit asking myself the question fairly early in the performance and enjoyed Gary Mauer's performance as the Phantom.

All told, it was a lovely evening out.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2005-08-27 09:35 PM
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