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Experience ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

   This week begins the 12-day run of Cameron Mackintosh’s re-imagining of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s towering success “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton. The show runs now through June 22.
This production is billed as being “bigger and better than ever before,” which is a challenge considering the already opulent and spectacular nature of the show. One mention of “Phantom” brings to mind the lavish costumery, elaborate sets, swelling musical score and  glittering chandelier that theatergoers have come to know, love, and expect from any production of the show.
FOX CITIES Magazine was given a sneak peek, behind-the-scenes look at “Phantom” during Media Day Thursday.

Ben Jacoby (Raoul) and Jacquelynne Fontaine (Carlotta) spoke about their experience with the spectacular new production.
Jacoby is impressed with “the enormity of the show,” especially in a production that tours the country. He says that the “sweeping, luscious, romantic score” along with the relatable nature of the show’s themes and characters keeps audiences coming back.
For Fontaine, a classically trained opera singer who as a child listened to the “Phantom” soundtrack on loop, her role as Carlotta is “a dream come true.”
Like Fontaine, many theatergoers have been familiar with the score for years. Audience members of this production won’t be disappointed.
“We’ve retained the same music that’s near and dear to lovers of the show,” she says.
According to Fontaine, Mackintosh has taken the “route of realism” in his conception of the show. For Jacoby, the realism helps him face the legacy of the show.
“I’m looking for the truth. There’s no time to think, ‘I’m singing ‘Music of the Night’ right now,’” he says.

chandelier

That blistering ball of light in the photograph is the newly designed chandelier that tours with this production of “Phantom.” According to Joel Herbst, company manager, the piece was designed by Howard Eaton, designer of the London Olympic Rings.
The chandelier weighs in at one ton and is adorned with 6,000 beads, 620 beads on each strand. This new chandelier dances, shimmies, and has pyrotechnics that are sure to wow both new a familiar audiences alike.
The electricians hiding the the glow of the lights are ‘loading’ the chandelier with the pyrotechnics for its legendary crash. Herbst called the traveling crew members “exceptionally smart.” They had just over a month to learn the operation of the chandelier inside and out before the show began touring in October 2013.
The last stop of the tour was a glimpse of the props and costumes used by the cast.
The props from the ballet dancers’ changing room are meant to bring a sense of realism to Christine’s situation. Heather Chockley, one of the stage managers, explained the importance of these props in telling Christine’s story.

costumes
“He (Mackintosh) wanted to emphasize the shared space that was theirs,” says Chockley.
The costumes, though newly made, are taken from the designs of the late Maria Björnson who designed for the original 1986 production of “Phantom” in London. Her work is well respected and loved in the theater community. Mackintosh chose to keep the original designs.
The show calls for lavish costumery and some of the dresses, including Christine’s blue dress pictured here, weigh more than 25 pounds.
While the large pieces are brand new, some of the smaller pieces including hats and accessories are 25 years old.
This new production of “Phantom” has been highly anticipated and tickets are selling quickly. Do yourself a favor and lose yourself in “The Music of the Night.”
For more information, visit the show page at foxcitiespac.org/events/phantom.

By Jennifer Clausing

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