Arts | Coolture

REVIEW: An updated ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is a visual, auditory treat

Quentin Oliver Lee as The Phantom and Eva Tavares as Christine Daaé in “The Phantom of the Opera” playing at the San Diego Civic Theatre through Sept. 2.
(Matthew Murphy)

A visually spectacular updated version of “The Phantom of the Opera” is playing at the San Diego Civic Theatre that is guaranteed be a wonderful treat for both longtime fans and newcomers to the multi-award-winning musical.

Playing through Sunday, Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s show has been reinvented through both its staging and scenic design. According to Mackintosh in a press release, talk to update the show that debuted in 1986 began more than a decade ago and was unveiled in 2012 when this new production featuring a set design by Paul Brown opened on stage.

What Brown has created is a visually stunning late 19th century Paris Opera House that portrays its opulence, especially during Act 2’s Grand Ballroom scene during “Masquerade” that features a gold and mirrored room. The mirrors surrounding and above allow for the audience to see more of the actors as they dance around to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Combined with the opera stage set — it features two beautiful gold-covered opera box scenic elements — the richness and beauty of the opera world is contrasted even more greatly with the dark starkness of The Phantom’s underground lair to which he drags his beloved Christine. The portion of the opera house visible to the public and its internal structure are interestingly and creatively presented as the scenes transition.


In addition, the new chandelier designed by Howard Eaton — well known for its role in a pivotal scene at the close of Act 1 — is stunning. It features more than 6,000 beads (with 632 beads per strand) and weighs 1 ton, per a press release.

As for the cast members, they aptly rise to the challenge of not being overshadowed by the set. The leads — Quentin Oliver Lee as The Phantom, Eva Tavares as the young ballerina turned opera star Christine Daaé and Jordan Craig as Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny — are terrific. Their voices are golden and their acting believable, pulling one into their complicated love triangle that is as tragic and sad as it is terrifying. While it can be believed that in some way The Phantom truly loves Christine, his deadly obsession for her is psychologically damaging, abusive and selfish. In contrast, Raoul’s love for her is much more pure and what a true romance should be. Yet, due to the cruelty The Phantom claims to have experienced since birth, Lee manages to make him both a terrifying yet sympathetic figure. One can almost forgive him for his actions, were they not so murderous.

Tavares is wonderful portraying the torment experienced by Christine as events unfold. The seemingly naive and sheltered young woman is torn between her love of music, a misunderstood promise from her deceased father, a welcomed romance from a childhood friend and a mix of admiration, gratitude and eventual fear of her “Angel of Music” who anonymously guides her career until her mythical angel decides to make his very human, disfigured appearance known.

As for Craig, he is wonderful as well in showing his bravery and romantic side as the love-struck Raoul, who is willing to risk all to save his beloved Christine.


All three have gorgeous opera voices, as does Trista Moldovan as the diva Carlotta Giudicelli and Phumzile Sojola as her co-star Ubaldo Piangi. Both are among The Phantom’s unfortunate victims in his attempts to take over “his opera house” and make Christine its star. Also deserving note for their performances are David Foley, Jr. (who played Monsieur Firmin through Tuesday — he has been succeeded in the role by David Benoit) and Rob Lindley as Monsieur André. The opera house owners provide many of the show’s comedic moments that are aptly placed throughout to provide additional emotional impact when The Phantom wreaks his terror on the opera house’s performers and crew members.

With such an iconic and well-known show, all have big expectations to fill, especially vocally, and none disappoint. All the beloved songs including “Think of Me,” “The Music of the Night,” “All I Ask of You,” “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” and “The Point of No Return” were performed with perfection. Combined with creative staging, lovely choreography, a very talented supporting cast and 17 orchestra members, this show easily meets the expectations presented in previous versions.

“The Phantom of the Opera” can be seen in matinee and evening performances through Sunday, Sept. 2 at the San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 3rd and B St. in downtown San Diego. Tickets are $27.50 to $186.50. Discounts for groups of 10-plus are available. Purchase at