(Excerpt) CRAZED GENIUS OR SPOILED BOY? That’s a no-brainer for this Les Mis gal: Battles and revolutions, urchins and rebels dying at the barricades come before fantasy and romance.
Jonathan Roxmouth, 25, astounds as the Phantom. His voice is equal to any previous Phantom (admittedly, viewed only via youtube), with more nuance than Ramin Karimloo, star of the 25th anniversary show. It is his acting, however, that sweeps the audience away.
This Phantom is willful and arrogant. Yet, there is no petulance. When he toys with the Opera fat cats, hurling one impossible demand after another, it is with a deft touch of irony. He convinces us that it’s the logical behavior to show a world that has never listened to his appeals.
Anthony Downing’s Raoul is all puffed up posturing. (His voice isn’t that affecting anyway). Downing’s attack almost relegates Christine into a prop for a pissing contest with the Phantom.
It’s one thing to be bewildered by a sweetheart that hears voices. But this Raoul skirts so close to contempt; you wonder why he doesn’t just leave Christine to the Phantom’s tender mercies. Raoul is callow and, by all accounts, spoiled by his older brother. Still, Downing does too much hectoring and badgering of Christine; makes you wonder what fate awaits her once the threat of the Phantom no longer exists.
It is left to Claire Lyon and Roxmouth to carry the plot’s emotional core and save the night.
Roxmouth paints a mesmerizing portrait that is all shades of gray. His Phantom is ruthless, but the impression is of a man driven to desperation instead of a nihilist out to wreak revenge at the world. Mme Giry’s reluctance to paint him into a corner then makes perfect sense. This Phantom, too, is infused with a stillness — absolutely no extraneous gestures — that makes his episodes of rage all the more explosive.
It would have been too easy to play the Phantom as a crazed Pygmalion. Roxmouth’s Phantom honors Christine, shows her respect, agonizes at the choices he makes, making it easier for us to understand her ambivalence.
I’ve never appreciated “Point of No Return” so much. Lyon and Roxmouth generate so much heat it kinda empties the hall of oxygen. Then Roxmouth’s hands start trembling. Even knowing how the play ends, it is a heart-stopping moment, a gesture that, sans words, distills this tragic tale.
Roxmouth never gets self-indulgent. His discipline and focus exist solely in the service of the Phantom. Every breath and sigh, every twitch and turn, every note draws you into his world, his battered heart.
At the end of the musical, there was moment of silence as the audience crawled out from the dark pit. And then a roar swept through the CCP main theater, an ovation refused to end even when the curtain dropped the last time and the exit lights came ablaze. (This is an excerpt)
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