“Phantom” Will Thrill You at Gateway Playhouse

Phantom is by far the most hauntingly thrilling production I’ve had the pleasure of seeing at Gateway. The story stays with you long after the curtain closes, and the music – intense, chilling and heartwarming all at the same time. This is the fifth production of the popular Phantom that Gateway has produced in its 63-year history and I can tell you it’s one you do not want to miss.
Phantom is the story of a hideously disfigured musical prodigy that haunts the bowels of the Paris Opera House. He becomes madly obsessed with young Christine, whose voice he compares with that of an angel. He approaches her and offers to be her mentor under one condition – that she never know his identity or see his face.
The Phantom – whose real name we learn is Erik – will let no one see his face, and hides behind masks that are nothing if not intriguing. As the scenes change, so do the masks. They go from simple – a white mask with blood under the eyes – to complex and beautiful – a dark mask with mirror-like pieces covering the face and black feathers protruding from the top. For me the masks symbolized the emotions Erik/Phantom was feeling during his scenes. We see him embody different personas – sometimes gentle and caring when with Christine, then dark and menacing as he portrays the Phantom of the Paris Opera.
At the heart of Erik/Phantom is a scared, hurt and unbelievably passionate and talented man who has been abandoned by the outside world and those who should love him despite his appearance. His love for Christine is an obsession, and the talent of Jamie Jackson, who portrays the mysterious Phantom, is extraordinary. His voice alone would be enough to give me goose bumps, but combined with the raw emotion emanating from him, his performance was nothing short of electrifying. I found myself on the edge of my seat with bated breath as I watched this tragedy of love unfold before me.
As the lovely Christine, Bonnie Fraser is the personification of ethereal innocence, and she falls under the spell of the Phantom as he secretly helps hone her singing talent. In her own way, Christine does fall in love with the man behind the mask, whose gentle eyes have captured her in their spell. I am always astounded when such powerhouse vocals come from the smallest of people, and Fraser’s voice was pure, strong and held the audience around me captive in her own spell.
Act two is where we discover the horrific and tragic truth about how the Phantom came to be, endearing us further to the tortured soul of Erik/Phantom. When he at last reveals himself to Christine, we bear witness to the final blow to his battered soul as she runs from him in terror.  With tears in my eyes, I watched the final scene unfold, raw emotion emanating from the characters in front of me.
A spectacular cast and company makes Phantom yet another resounding success for Gateway. Under the direction of Dom Ruggiero, with colleagues Jeffrey Buchsbaum as musical director, costume designer Jose Rivera and lighting genius Christopher Landy, Gateway’s Phantom is a spectacle for all your senses. Thanks to Gateway for another season full of awe-inspiring
theatrical productions.

Phantom haunts the Gateway Playhouse now through September 9. For tickets and information visit
www.GatewayPlayhouse.com.

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