by Nicholas Sheets, dramaturg
As The Phantom of the Opera continues to show strong at BYU I began to reflect a little on the power of the spectacle, due in part to my love for works by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Other musicals by Webber, besides The Phantom of the Opera, are also very popular: Jesus Christ, Superstar; Cats; Starlight Express; Love Never Dies (the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera); Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; and Evita. As the pictures show, there is a lot of eye candy in each of these shows, whether through costumes, musical numbers, scenery, lighting, or even directorial choices. Wherever a Webber musical arises, there are sure to be “wow” moments that send the audience on a roller coaster of fun.
Now let’s return to BYU’s production of The Phantom of the Opera and take a closer look at what Tim Threlfall’s directorial decisions are to make this show a spectacle like the one on Broadway. Let’s begin at the beginning. We have combined both the orchestra and sound bytes to help portray the show in a manner that envelopes the audience. This isn’t like Oklahoma, where all the music comes from the microphones and orchestra pit. This show has pre-recorded music, such as frog croaks and Phantom voices. Also, Doug, our student sound designer, has the voices moving across the speakers, so it appears the Phantom is moving as well. This is all to create a more spectacular experience as you view the show.
Also, when the Phantom decides to rain on the Masquerade parade, he enters with a very menacing costume. I was very tempted to add this to my display outside of the DeJong Concert Hall, but I want this costume to be a moment of surprise for those who will attend, and hopefully it was for those who already attended. Deanne DeWitt did an amazing job constructing this costume.
What would this production be without fog and a boat? Well, pretty much nothing according to our standards. So, we have fog and a boat. This is a remote controlled car that navigates among the fog during the iconic Phantom song. Once parked on the side of the stage, it is very easy to take it off stage left. To see an up-close picture of this sequence, go to the HFAC display on the south stairwell.
Our director had some issues to clear up before we could fully present this musical. For instance, how do we make the Phantom disappear during the scenes where he is supposed to drop through a trap door? The answer comes twofold: fog and flying. First, we have used a lot of fog to help eradicate the audience’s view of the Phantom. This also serves as a neat effect that fills the stage with an ominous feeling of obscurity. The flying is a neat addition that helps the Phantom appear as a master magician, as Madame Giry informs us. Many hours of practice have passed so all those who are hung/flown in the musical would do so in a safe manner.
These are only a few ways in which this musical has kept its spectacle at BYU. For those who have already seen this musical at BYU, why don’t you let everyone else know your favorite parts that really stood out to you as a spectacle within the show. This could be costumes, dance routines, lighting, sound, etc. Be careful of spoilers though!