Phantom of the Opera Makes Grand Entrance

Out & About in Greater Tulsa By EMILY RAMSEY
Managing Editor

STARRING ROLES: Phantom of the Opera’s Chris Mann, right, who plays the Phantom, and Storm Lineberger, as Raoul, pose before a performance during the show’s two-week run at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center in April.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

Tulsa reaped many rewards for two weeks in April when a tall, dark, masked and slightly crazed man came to town. A show that has been running since 1986, Phantom of the Opera continues its unchallenged reign of enduring popularity.

Chris Mann became a well-recognized face (and voice) during his time as a member of Team Christina (Aguilera) on NBC’s The Voice in 2012. Mann plays the Phantom, with University of Oklahoma graduate Storm Lineberger as Raoul and Katie Travis as Christine Daae, the object of both men’s affection.

Even with some noticeable changes to the production, which started the second year of its North American tour in November, the show maintains many of its beloved elements, including, of course, the music. Some of the changes involve choreography, lighting and chandelier acrobatics.

My first time seeing Phantom was in its New York City home at the Majestic Theatre. While my seat was nothing to covet, the sheer energy felt in the theatre was enough to make the show worth it. Add to it, the voices of the performers, particularly I remember marveling at the singing voice belonging to the Phantom, which was less operatic than Mann’s rendition and cut through the theatre just a bit more.

In that production, I remember the Phantom’s voice standing out among the rest as all-around magnificent. On the other hand, in this production, the voices of all of the performers are nearly equal in skill and strength, and they blend well together.

Mann, who had for the past few years been singing in the pop genre, says that he has enjoyed coming back to his opera roots, being a classically-trained opera singer.

“Singing classically and operatically resonates through your entire body,” he says. “My character is so aggressive, you use your whole voice and body to communicate anger and other emotions.”

Lineberger, just freshly out of college, brings a deep voice, a big range and an air of manliness to the role of Raoul, and Travis hits her high notes beautifully.

While Lineberger initially thought he already knew the character of Raoul (“I always thought of him as the safe loverboy choice”), he made a thorough study of the character to truly understand his emotions: “Here’s a guy who has no expectations, and then suddenly he’s put in this crazy situation with Christine and this crazy man.”

Mann and Lineberger, who are both new to performing with a touring show, have been learning many things together, one of those being the importance of pacing themselves.

“We do over 400 shows per year,” Mann says.

“The schedule has been a whirlwind,” says Lineberger. “You have to take care of your voice and know what you’re capable of.”

Nancy Hermann, marketing director for the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, is no stranger to Phantom of the Opera. She has seen the show numerous times in both New York and Tulsa.

“This production is more focused on the relationships between the three characters; there’s a lot at stake for everyone,” she says.

It’s hard not to feel for the Phantom when Christine and Raoul are singing “All I Ask of You,” as he watches from a distance.

Phantom loyalists surely recognized the various changes in the new show. Two noticeable things that both Hermann and I admit to missing from the original version: the beautiful scene when the Phantom and Christine cross the underground lake in a boat going to his lair, with fog rising from the stage floor and candles emerging through the fog; and, of course, the shimmering chandelier and its two grand moments: first, as it sits on the stage until the show begins and then is lifted to the ceiling, and second, at the end of the first act when it crashes to the stage. Yet, I will say, the acrobatics of the current chandelier are a close second.

For many, though, this was their first ever viewing of Phantom, and they had no complaints, says Hermann. “I heard from a number of people who absolutely loved the show, both new viewers and ones who had seen previous productions.”

Yet, regardless of personal opinions, with an almost sold-out two-week run locally and the show’s two-year national tour, it’s clear that admirers of the beloved production can rest assured. Phantom of the Opera is here to stay for many more years to come.

Updated 04-25-2015

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