What: The Phantom of the Opera
Where: The Jubilee Auditorium
When: July 26-August 6, 2017
Tickets: Tour tickets purchasable online

The Phantom of the Opera returned to Edmonton this summer and took up residence in the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.

The production had its debut show in Edmonton on July 26, and had its final show on August 6 before moving on to Calgary. The Phantom of the Opera is currently the longest running show on Broadway, celebrating its 30th anniversary next year. It’s a story all theatre fanatics are familiar with. Stage manager Michael B. Hodges and actor Derrick Davis (The Phantom) found that the challenge behind this production is making the show feel fresh yet familiar to audiences.

“The show’s been reimagined to be more cinematic,” Hodges says. “We want it to appear as though you’re following the characters  seeing what they’re seeing, feeling what they’re feeling.”

This cinematic approach is afforded to them by the technological advances made in theatre production. The set itself is perhaps the biggest benefactor of these advances. It can rotate and transform in seconds despite weighing 10 tons. This is so that the scenes “wipe and dissolve into each other,” says Hodges. “You never have time to sit back and be bored.”

However, the chandelier may be the most memorable part for audiences (particularly for those sitting center stage in the first three rows, who were directly under the chandelier).

Hodges says the chandelier “plays (more of) a character role in the show itself  it bumps; it moves; The Phantom manipulates it; it has pyro effects; it has special effects so that when it crashes, it makes it feel like it’s crashing down right on the audience.”

Hodges also notes that the production has faced some challenges in Edmonton due to the size and shape of the Jubilee.

“We have a bit of a space issue going upstage or downstage,” Hodges says. “We don’t have as much space as we usually do…so it’s a little bit different of a traffic pattern. Usually on a big show like this traffic patterns are always the same so when you have to introduce a new one, it’s refreshing for some people. For others, change is hard.”

Despite these challenges, Hodges says that the show hasn’t undergone any changes. “Our producers are fantastic,” Hodges says. “One of their goals is they don’t want to present a half-show or a quarter-show. They don’t want to cut anything so every audience member in every market gets to see the whole show.”

Another change in this production is the casting of African-American actor Derrick Davis as The Phantom. Davis is the third African-American in the role and the first to be in the role on tour. Davis admits he wasn’t sure how he was going to be received.

“I was very worried going into some cities that I wouldn’t have been accepted for being a man of colour in this role,” Davis says. “And in those same cities, I got the largest and most open welcome.”

Davis says that his favourite part of the production is the surprise the audience has as their expectations are both met and subverted  striking the perfect balance between fresh and familiar.

“It’s something unexpected in so many different ways,” Davis says. “It has turns, it has fights, it has humor, darkness, light. It’s magical. It really is magical. It’s amazing to see it all come alive.”

The Phantom of the Opera has been received markedly well on its North American tour, which will continue through until fall 2018. Given the resounding success the production had in Edmonton, it likely won’t be long until The Phantom returns once again to the Jubilee.

Images courtesy of Alastair Muir and Matthew Murphy
Load More By Aidan Herron