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Review: The Phantom soars in ‘Opera’ at The Smith Center

Updated June 5, 2017 - 5:16 pm

Singer and actor Derrick Davis, who portrayed Mufasa and covered for Scar in the 2 1/2 year run of “Disney’s The Lion King” at Mandalay Bay from 2009 to 2011, is a revelation in the lead role of The Phantom in Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s beloved musical “The Phantom of the Opera,” now at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts through Sunday.

In performing as The Masked One, Davis — who chatted about the role, chandelier, racism and more in an interview posted Sunday and in Sunday ENT of The RJ — commands the stage with his strong, bellowing and rich voice, and it is complemented exquisitely by his acting and emotion. Simply put, Davis succeeds in fully embodying the role of The Phantom.

Yours truly has seen “Phantom,” an all-time favorite musical, in San Francisco, Los Angeles and four times at The Venetian, and, for the first time because of Davis’ portrayal, I understood the yearning and heartbreak of The Phantom and would’ve chosen The Phantom over Raoul, The Vicomte de Chagny. Yes, Davis is that good.

Jordan Craig falters as Raoul — he has the cookie-cutter looks and magnetism of a Fox News correspondent — but Katie Travis’s voice as Christine Daae is wonderful (especially during “Think of Me” and “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again”); Anne Kanengeiser is stern and splendid as Madame Giry; and Trista Moldovan, as Carlotta Giudicelli, is a delicious diva.

As a Las Vegas resident of nine years who had the embarrassment of riches of watching the phenomenal “Phantom — The Las Vegas Spectacular” four times, it is difficult not to think of the benchmark and headliner spectacle that ran at The Venetian from 2006 to 2012:

It was shortened to a more-Las Vegas-audience-friendly 90 minutes; it featured an incredible and incomparable chandelier, pyrotechnics and gorgeous costumes and staging; and Anthony Crivello (The Phantom), Kristi Holden and Kristen Hertzenberg (alternating as Christine Daae, with Holden as the lead) and Andrew Ragone (Raoul) were astonishing.

There are shaky moments in this touring production of “Phantom” — the chandelier is sadly underwhelming; the wonderful orchestra (augmented by synthesizers and recorded music) occasionally drowns out the actors; and what was going on with Christine’s ice skater Barbie dress and The Phantom’s Marvel Comics superhero suit at the masquerade ball that begins Act II?

But this “Phantom” production still satisfies emotionally and fully and is not to be missed; it is one of the best productions to grace The Smith Center stage in its five years. Final question: Who else thought of comedienne Kathy Griffin and President Donald Trump in the opening scene with Carlotta holding the disembodied (and bloody!) head?

Be sure to check out our “Phantom” coverage from last week — Mr. Robin Leach’s fascinating interview with French horn player Beth Lano of Las Vegas and the Q+A with Davis. Meantime, think of me, think of me fondly, when we’ve said goodbye.

“The Phantom of the Opera” ends its 16-performance run at Reynolds Hall on Sunday.

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