News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
‘Phantom’ unmasked at Riverside
BY JESSE SCOTT
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
You don’t stop reading Harry Potter after the first book. You don’t cease your Star Wars kick at “Star Wars: Episode II.” And you sure wouldn’t be a genuine Batman fan without seeing “Batman Begins.”
If you’re really into something, you experience it all—the originals, the prequels and the sequels. If you are a “Phantom of the Opera” fan—and there are a ton out there—you aren’t really a fan until you’ve experienced Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit’s “Phantom.” This version of the famed production features an absolutely stunning musical score and a slightly different twist on the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber tale that leaves fans and Phantom newbies alike simply longing for more.
“Phantom” runs Wednesdays through Sundays at Riverside Dinner Theater through Oct. 14.
“‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is such a wonderful story that everyone knows. Many will come and see it for the story alone,” said Patti D’Beck, director of the Riverside production. “This specific version is different from the Broadway ‘Phantom,’ and is so much more. The crowd will like the characters, love the story, and absolutely love the music. It is a real treat.”
Based on the 1911 Gaston Leroux novel, “The Phantom of the Opera,” a musical written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, first hit Broadway in 1988. Since, it has become the highest-grossing Broadway production in U.S. history, raking in well over $800 million.
In 1991, American composer Maury Yeston produced his own, powerful musical interpretation of Leroux’s classic tale, spawning quite the cult phenomenon.
“Phantom” tracks the dark yet sympathetic Erik (the Phantom) and his lonesome world living in the basement under the Paris Opera House. In order to live, he needs appealing music to serenade his ears. Along his music-infused journey, the Phantom finds comfort and love in the voice of Christine, his beautiful pupil, and distaste in the voice of Carlotta, the newly appointed head of the Paris Opera House.
The story gives several unique perspectives on love and perseverance while answering questions that “The Phantom of the Opera” does not. D’Beck’s cast looks forward to giving its own spin to the modern classic through a stunning set and powerful vocals.
“This show really shows the mysteriousness and darkness of the phantom,” said D’Beck, a longtime professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in her first directing role at Riverside. “Above ground, upstairs, you experience the lavish, elegant opera feeling. And below you experience the darkness of the phantom. We show those two worlds at all times and don’t want to stop the show for anything. The transitions are designed to flow as easily as possible. We want everything to flow.”
The role of the Phantom is played by Broadway veteran and Riverside associate artistic director Patrick A’Hearn.
“I wanted to put on one hat for this performance and that was the performer’s hat,” said A’Hearn, who last performed in a version of “Phantom” 14 years ago. “As an actor, I’m able to tap into my life’s experiences that I simply didn’t have 14 years ago. Having been through more in my own life than before, I’m able to genuinely portray this tragic and dark soul.”
The Phantom’s love interest, Christine, is played by New York City resident Quinn Vogt–Welch. The actress made the trip down from the Big Apple to play a role that comes naturally.
“I think it’s easy for me to see where she’s coming from, in terms of having dreams and living those dreams out,” said Vogt–Welch, a native of upstate New York who moved to New York City to live out her dreams of acting professionally. “I grew up in a pretty rural area. Moving to the big city, like Christine moves to the Paris Opera House, it’s been pretty easy to slip into this role.”
If the first week of “Phantom” has been any indication of the months ahead, it’s shaping up to be a hot end of the summer for Riverside.
“Everyone has been left on their feet,” said A’Hearn. “If you’re looking for a good cry or release of emotions, you will find it in this piece.”
Where: Riverside Dinner Theater, 95 Riverside Parkway, Fredericksburg
When: Wednesdays–Sundays through Oct. 14. Wednesday matinee at 1:30 p.m., arrive 11:30 a.m. to noon; Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., arrive 6–6:15 p.m.; Sunday matinee at 3 p.m., arrive 1–1:15 p.m.
Jesse Scott is a freelance writer and Fredericksburg native. Email him at email@example.com.