Ann Arbor Theater Vixen: Jenn McKee's Blog











{October 9, 2009}   Surprised by “Phantom”

OK, what wasn’t surprising when I went to “Phantom of the Opera” at the Detroit Opera House was the obnoxious, thirtysomething couple behind me who would once again NOT shut up. Did you morons really dole out a couple hundred bucks to chat while sitting in an ornate theater with a dressed-up crowd? (And though I thought, with relief, that they’d left at intermission, they loudly stumbled back to their seats after the show started again, as I heard ice cubes clinking in their glasses; and after talking through the second act, the woman could barely stand for the inevitable ovation. It wasn’t until then that I realized, “Ohhhhhhh – they’re wasted.” Again, couldn’t this goal be achieved at home with a six pack?)

Anyway, I’ll confess that I hadn’t been looking forward to “Phantom.” I’d already seen it four times or something – with friends who were big fans of the show in college – and as far as I’m concerned, I can live the rest of my life without seeing the show again, or even hearing its soundtrack. So why did I take the assignment from Between the Lines? Because Joe had never seen it and had always been curious about the show. But then, in a smackdown from Fate, we couldn’t line up a babysitter, and he stayed at home while I headed downtown alone to a show I didn’t really want to watch. Rah.

I was pleasantly surprised, though. I gave myself over to the show, in all its glorious cheesiness, and I had a pretty good time ā€“ when I could ignore the couple behind me, that is. (You know who they made me think of? The characters featured in the “Two A-holes” series of SNL sketches that star Kristin Wiig and Jason Galifianakis. That was TOTALLY them.)

After having some time to think about it, I believe part of my enjoyment of this familiar show was that it supplied this temporary reprieve from the economic crisis that’s hit all of us, but that’s particularly hit the arts community. “Phantom” is a holdover from a more bombastic, showy, over-the-top time, so its production values are through the roof. The press materials came with an itemized list of how many people were involved in various elements, and how much things cost. It was staggering to see in bald numbers, and even more difficult to comprehend. For so long, theaters everywhere have been hurting, and more recently, their patrons have, too. So there was something liberating about seeing a no-holds-barred, money-is-no-object production. It temporarily took me back to a time when day-to-day life wasn’t so fraught with bad news and bleak financial indicators.

So perhaps, “Phantom of the Opera” became for me “Phantom of the Pre-recession.” And you can understand the appeal. But then the lights came on ā€“ and I bemoaned the fact what I would be paid to write the review will barely cover what I had to pay for parking on a Friday night in downtown Detroit. That’s what we all face now. But “Phantom” provided a surprising, seductive break for a few hours, and for that, I’m grateful.

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Heather says:

Phantom *IS* better than Cats…



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