How on earth are they going to bring in a chandelier?
This was the one thought going through many people’s minds upon entering the Tel Aviv Opera House Tuesday night to see the Israeli premiere of Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running Broadway musical in history. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous musical is in Israel as part of a world tour, with actors from prestigious theater stages all over the world, from the West End to Broadway. The company will stage 32 performances at the Opera House throughout August and the first week of September.
The story takes place in the Paris Opera House, known for its incredible singers, its well-trained corps de ballet, and its magnificent chandelier, which famously comes crashing down at the hands of the Opera Ghost, or the OG, to kill the young ballerina and prima donna, Christine Daae.That same Phantom, portrayed by the internationally-acclaimed Jonathan Roxmouth, has now come to haunt the Israeli stage.By opening night, 37,000 tickets had already been sold for the theater classic, requiring Israeli producer Moshe Yosef to add another eight performances. With 110 people in the cast and crew and 500 costumes and alternating scenery, those who come to see the show are transported to Paris in the heart of Tel Aviv. Meghan Picerno, the talented soprano voicing the lead role of Christine Daae, belted “Phantom of the Opera,” the song by the same name as the musical, and filled the room with the characteristic sweetness of the role. Roxmouth gave a particularly intense performance, delving into the rage and torment of the part with his powerful voice that commanded the room with the quietest notes of his famous solo, “Music of the Night.”Matt Leisy, playing the role of Christine’s lover Raoul de Chagny, commanded the stage, tempting a rapt gaze as he belted love songs to Miss Daae and sparking fear as he sang of his fury toward the Phantom.“This is a universal story, a universal means of communication,” Picerno told The Jerusalem Post about the Broadway smash arriving in Tel Aviv. “To be able to spread it around the world and have other cultures experience it for the first time, there’s something exciting and different.“We’re truly an international cast,” she continued. “Particularly in this time, when there’s so much nationalism going on, to have this international flavor... I think there’s something quite beautiful and unique about that. We all bring our own talents from our own countries.“I found that the reaction in the audience is always the same,” Roxmouth, who has played the Phantom on-and-off all over the world for the past five years, told the Post. “I think the reason is that we’re doing exactly the same production that you can see in New York or London.”Upon being asked what he thinks makes Phantom such a success, Roxmouth said, “A lot of shows remind you of Phantom, but Phantom reminds you of nothing else. I think it’s one of the most perfect musicals in its structure and its delivery.“It was certainly an experience,” Roxmouth said of the riotous Israeli applause. Picerno jokingly compared the clapping to a rock concert.“We had to extend the curtain call!” said Leisy. “We bowed much more.” The show arrived in Israel less than two weeks after its original director Harold (Hal) Prince died.
So although the chandelier remains a mystery, one thing is certain: The Phantom of the Opera came to knock Israeli audiences off their feet.