Part of making Waterbury great again – a big part – was the city’s decision to reclaim the majesty of the Palace Theater and restore it in 2004. It is a gem of a theater, with grand staircases and a beautiful lobby, plenty of room for parading in style during an intermission, and a vast auditorium and stage.
Just the sort of place in which to watch and listen to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Phantom of the Opera,” touring the country in a ‘new production’ by Cameron Mackintosh. Derrick Davis (the Phantom), Kaitlyn Davis (Christine), and Jordan Craig (Raoul) lead the large and excellent cast of singers and dancers, with a special orchestra under the baton of Jamie Johns.
It is 1881. The Paris Opera Comique is sold to two new owners, who receive a message that a phantom who resides in the Opera House expects to receive his monthly compensation just as before. ‘Accidents’ are multiplying. When sandbags dropping from the heights nearly miss a famed soprano, she resigns just before opening night and Christine is pulled from the ensemble to replace her. She sings brilliantly, and is recognized by Raoul, now a Count and a patron of the Opera, but once her childhood friend. They reminisce, and fall in love.
But Christine is also adored by the Phantom – a brilliant musician born with a disfigured face, and shown as a caged freak when he was a child. He escaped his captors but never the shame and loneliness of being a freak. Christine imagines he is the Angel of Music her father (long dead) used to tell her about. The Phantom encourages and teaches Christine, taking her to his underground chambers beneath the Opera House.
Then he composes an opera for her to sing. When it is performed, chaos erupts in the opera house. The Phantom takes Christine back to his secret apartment, but this time Raoul follows. Unable to give Christine up, the Phantom is ready to kill Raoul, but when Christine, begging for Raoul’s life, kisses him, the Phantom for the first time in his life experiences compassion, and he reflects it by setting Raoul free and sending them away together. When police arrive to arrest him, they pull away his cloak and find only his mask.
Besides the excellent cast and fine singing, the production features beautiful and complicated sets and lighting and magnificent costumes. An excellent troupe of dancers and superb choreography is all there. I believe Ted Keener is the name of the fabulous dancer who was featured in the opera scenes. I would happily follow to the next location to see him again.
www.palacetheaterct.org or call 203-346 2000 for information and tickets to all the Palace shows
Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theater November 18, 2017