“Phantom of the Opera” tour, Wharton Center East Lansing (review)

Phantom makes its final stop in Michigan (the tour is about to close after 18 years) at the Wharton Center in East Lansing, and it is everything you expect – no more, no less. Andrew Lloyd Webber forever changed the face of musical theater tours when he emphasized the production values so that audiences on the road would see the identical show as on Broadway – down to the sets and costumes. So far, the musical tour has grossed OVER 5 BILLION dollars, so it has all paid off.

Tim Martin Gleason and Trista Moldovan in Phantom of the Opera

The third road company at the Wharton Center is first rate. Tim Martin Gleason (as the Phantom) has basically spent his professional life doing the show (starting in Ensemble then Raoul on tour and the Vegas spectacular) and now The Phantom. He is very good. Trista Moldovan (in the performance I saw) makes a fine Christine Daae – her voice is lovely. (At some performances, Kelly Jeanne Grant performs the role).

But nobody really comes to see Phantom to review the performances. It’s about the sets, the costumes, the music, the lights, and that Chandelier. And it all looks magnificent (even if the chandelier looks completely out of place in ultra-modern Wharton Center if you are sitting anywhere but center orchestra). When the phantom steals Christine away and takes her to his watery underground lair for the first time, the thrill of the candlelit boatride through the fog is still one of musical theater’s most indelible images — this is pure stage magic for a few minutes, and it’s one of my all-time favorite stage moments (see photo above).

The production tours with 27 trucks, and over 100 cast, crew, orchestra, and front-of-house personnel. This isn’t the first time Phantom has been an East Lansing boxoffice dynamo — but it is, sadly, the last.

If you haven’t seen Phantom before — for heavens sake, get a ticket and go enjoy this musical theater standard. If you have seen it before, you can probably take or leave this production, given it is identical to the performance you saw (wherever it was that you saw it.) But for theater purists, it’s your last chance to see the show with its original sets, costumes, stage effects and whatnot before your local community theaters start massacring the show a few years from now. This is a musical you DONT want to see performed by your local amateur group.

Phantom takes a lovely final bow at the Wharton Center. Highly Recommended.

3 thoughts on ““Phantom of the Opera” tour, Wharton Center East Lansing (review)

  1. Moldovan does do a lovely job–her voice floats, clear and true, through the vocal challenges faced by anyone playing Christine. I was pleased that Gleason allowed himself to put his own imprint on the Phantom’s singing, rather than keeping every bit of phrasing and inflection like Crawford’s. I was also impressed by the actors playing Firmin, Andre and Madame Giry–they did very well.

  2. Yes, I agree — all of the supporting performers were good. This is a very strong cast overall.

  3. I take that last little bit as an insult! SOME amateur groups will slaughter the show, but if the theatrical group puts a lot into the show (money, time effort) then I think the show will be amazing! I live in a small town where there is a fabulous community theater, and they’ve decided to wait until we have the money and the capability to make Phantom an amazing experience for those who can’t fly to Broadway for a weekend!

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