(January 10, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada) Who is not touched, moved to tears by the tragedy of that poor burned creature, the Phantom of the Opera, and his doomed love for the beautiful woman who cannot love him? It was my third visit to the unhappy Phantom, this one with a stellar cast and an iconic soundtrack. And even on a third viewing, my eyes were glued to the stage, at the mesmerizing sets, especially the river and dungeons, the lair of the Phantom constructed beneath the stage…in fact, the entire theater is a reconstruction of the opera house, which is the center of the tale. Above you hangs the majestic chandelier. Around you are seated mysterious mannequins representing the audience of another time. You are mesmerized into that Parisian opera house, replete with ghostly patrons in velvet costumes of the period, giving the illusion of cheering from the balconies. And all this at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.
Through song after song, I let my fantasy drift as the tale of the fatal love unfolded. The magic was not only in the staging but in the heart-pounding magic of the music, the power of the voices which take you to hell and back until that ultimate deliverance and the acceptance that Paradise lies within.
This Phantom is played by Anthony Crivello -- the tragic lover who cannot win the love of his muse, Christine Daae (majestically interpreted on other nights by Kristi Holden, Sarah Elizabeth Combs, and Bonnie Fraser.) Beauty, they say, lies in the eyes of the beholder. So we search for the beauty in his doomed maimed creature. His struggle is a metaphor of the struggle between good and evil, hell and paradise, darkness and light.
And life for the Phantom becomes a dreadful journey from stage-front with a night with the celebrated diva to the dungeons and the canals of Death where the tormented and twisted creature is chained to a fate from which even death cannot release him. And we are left with the message that true happiness results from that search for love and the acceptance of selves and others as we really are.
And once the lights come up and the performance is over, where you really are is in the beautiful Venetian Hotel on the busy Las Vegas strip, where you can stroll along the man-made canals of Venice and take a magical ride in a gondola.
So that you simply leave the theater and emerge into another fantasy, relieved that you are neither the doomed Phantom nor his suffering love, and you can shed the stresses of daily life in search of the peace and pleasure of a delightful environment with plenty of time to think of the message of the Phantom: to live authentically, with no mask, just the thrilling kiss of life, with memories of the enchanting music that lifts us above and beyond the commonplace.
The Phantom is singing your name and daring you to face your Destiny.
'The Phantom of the Opera' runs until September 2, 2012 at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.