Do You Believe In Ghosts?

Don't be afraid of 'Phantom of the Opera' at The Paramount Theatre. It's as good as pad thai.

Katie Travis as Christine and Chriss Mann as The Phantom. Photo: Matthew Murphy.

Bottom line

The Paramount Theatre's production of Phantom of the Opera, which runs through May 10, offers both an introduction to opera singing and a pathway to great conversations about deep topics. Or it’s an escapist date night for you and your partner.


On the way to the theater I tried to explain the classic musical we were about to watch to my Phantom-of-the-Opera-virgin husband.

“It’s like, so many people have seen it … Lots of people who have never actually seen opera watch this … It’s an introduction to opera, in a way … it’s a really popular …” I was having trouble. I had first seen Phantom in my twenties when I was taken to the show by an old boyfriend and his parents. My boyfriend, and his family, weren’t interested in the avant garde plays, experimental stage shows and edgy productions I was into, but their Phantom fandom was not to be argued with.

“It’s pad thai,” my quick hubs quipped. That classic, ubiquitous, reliable Thai dish, the first taste of something safe but a smidge exotic for some Thai food novices. The dish that many folks try first and stick with. Enjoyable. Dependable. Not too out there. My husband was right on the money. Phantom is a musical, not an opera ― but it contains opera. The flagship London production has been running some 28 years. Worldwide the show has played more than 65,000 performances seen by 140 million people in 30 countries and 151 cities.

If you have seen Phantom before, some things about the current production ― on stage at Paramount Theatre through May 10 ― have changed from the original 1986 production, including pyrotechnics and updates in scene design (the sets are pretty varied and engaging, and The Phantom’s lair/catacombs have been changed significantly). The well-loved features are all still here, including that chandelier… (I’ll say no more for the sake of the pad thai set). The entire original score and all the songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber remain intact.

Parents should know

You could go to this one on a date night, or as a family. Producers suggest the production is appropriate for ages 8 and up and to make the decision on whether to bring children based on the length of the show (not a quick-hit at 2 hours, 45 minutes) and the content. I wouldn’t recommend the show for kids under age 10. There are some gunshots, but of real concern is The Phantom’s aggressive treatment of the subject of his affection, Christine, that edges at times into violence, and, even more notable, two noose scenes/hangings, one of which results in death. I think these themes and events would be troubling to kids younger than double-digit age.

But the story is a classic tale (based on the French novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux, it tells the story of a beautiful soprano, Christine, who becomes the obsession of a phantom-like, masked musical genius living in the shadows of the Paris Opera House) that holds some valuable learning opportunities for kids ― and adults. What is the difference between what we see in one another’s physical form and what someone’s interior self is like (our thoughts, hearts, personal stories)? How should we relate to another’s story when it involves tragedy? How do we treat those who are isolated and bullied? How does society’s expectations around beauty hurt us? These are all important concepts that directly affect screen-obsessed tweens and teens. Attending the show with your kid and then having conversations around these issues would be a fruitful and valuable arts experience. This study guide offers a robust history and great ideas about how to turn the story and show into a broad learning adventure.

Katie Travis is mesmerizing as Christine, and Chris Mann skated that sliver edge of sympathy and revulsion as The Phantom. The show is produced by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Laurence Connor, with new scenic design by Paul Brown, original Tony award-wining costume design by Maria Björnson, lighting design by Paule Constable, and new choreography by Scott Ambler.

It’s not a cheap night out, but if you go with kids, Phantom offers both an introduction to opera singing and a pathway to great conversations about deep topics. Or it’s an escapist date night for you and your partner. Either way, pad thai is really a very good dish.

If you go...

Where and when: Phantom of the Opera plays at The Paramount Theatre until May 10, with daytime and evening performances.
Length: Running time is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, including intermission.
Tickets: Prices vary by performance, starting at $30. Buy online at stgpresents or by calling 877-STG-4TIX.

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