After 25 Years, Phantom Still Astounds; Gala Anniversary Performance Filled With Surprises

By Adam Hetrick
27 Jan 2013

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As the lights dimmed and the stage crew set the stage for the prologue, the audience erupted into cheers. It would be the first of many such ovation moments throughout the night. The first Phantom "character" to receive entrance applause and hollers of excitement was the gilded chandelier, which sputtered and sparked as it ascended high above the heads of the audience during the Overture. Italian diva Carlotta, played by Michele McConnell, was also greeted with warm applause as she entered (severed head in hand) to begin the Hannibal opera sequence.

Our masked leading man for the evening was Broadway veteran Hugh Panaro, who initially joined the Broadway production as Raoul in the early 1990s. He has since returned to the Broadway cast as the Phantom for several runs. His most recent engagement, which began in September 2010, has put Panaro's performance tally at more than 1,900 as the Phantom. The gala evening found him in fine voice as he coaxed Christine to the labyrinth beneath the Paris Opera House in the title number, as well as his standout performance of "Music of the Night," which ended with a pianissimo final note that kept audiences in silent thrall.

While "Music of the Night" may be the best-known song from the musical, the evening's biggest round of applause went to Sierra Boggess' full-voiced performance of "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again." Numerous shouts of "brava!" echoed toward the stage after Boggess offered what could be the definitive rendition of the poignant song.

The young performer who originated the role of Christine Daaé in the Las Vegas production of Phantom, and followed that experience by playing the French soprano in Lloyd Webber's sequel, Love Never Dies, may be the finest actress to take on the role. It's no wonder Lloyd Webber also had Boggess portray Christine during Phantom's 25th anniversary in London last year. She possesses a thrilling and versatile voice capable of filling out the range of the challenging role from the highest soprano notes to the deeper mezzo tones. In addition, Boggess anchors her vocal skills with strong acting that richly color Christine's conflict between her relationship with the Phantom and Raoul.