Behind the Mask: Inside the Reimagined Production of the 'Phantom of the Opera'

By Alex Wilking
In Culture

As “Phantom of the Opera” stage manager Heather Chockley looks at the notorious 1-ton chandelier suspended from the ceiling of The Fabulous Fox, she can’t help but crack a joke.

“I like to say we have a small Nissan hanging over our heads,” she says.

"Phantom of the Opera" cast performing "Masquerade." Photo by  Alastair Muir, courtesy of The Fabulous Fox Theatre.

“Phantom of the Opera” cast performing “Masquerade.” Photo by Alastair Muir, courtesy of The Fabulous Fox Theatre.

A long-time favorite of the Broadway and West End theater scenes since its acclaimed 1986 debut, the “Phantom of the Opera’s” current tour stops over at the Fox until March 15 at the Fox Theatre. But it’s not the “Phantom” you’ve seen before: An updated chandelier is just one of many re-imagined tweaks legendary West End producer Cameron Mackintosh has introduced.

This run of “Phantom” offers a more technologically driven and vibrant experience than its past presentations. New designs, setups and visuals offer a more modernized way to approach each scene, and the choreography was also reworked to match each cast member. But don’t fret—Andrew Lloyd Webber’s soaring, rock-inspired music, Tim Rice’s much-loved lyrics and the glorious costumes are still the same.

The Phantom, played by Chris Mann, and Christine, played by Katie Davis. Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy of The Fabulous Fox Theatre.

The Phantom, played by Chris Mann, and Christine, played by Katie Travis. Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy of The Fabulous Fox Theatre.

But more than anything, this new imagining takes a more in-depth look at the human elements of its characters. Katie Travis, who plays Christine Daaé in the production, says that although the old themes audiences love are still around, the way in which the story is told has changed.

“This production is less about the magic and the spectacle and more about the realistic approach at telling the story,” Travis says. “It’s a way that we can tell a story of people who are struggling with something or have damage with something in their life.”

The chandelier isn’t just new in appearance. The 6,000-bead fixture, made by Howard Eaton—who also crafted the 2012 Olympic Rings used in London—will do things a little differently this time around, as promised by the crew. “It moves in new and mysterious ways,” Chockley says. “We like to say it’s got some new dance moves.”

Catch the “Phantom of the Opera” at the Fabulous Fox Theatre through this weekend.

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