Part II of my 4 part "Phantom in May" series.

Tonight was the Music Box tour in Buffalo. I got the $15 seats, so I was touching the clouds the whole night and, consequently, cannot report on facials and stuff like that. (I'll do that Saturday.)

Auction: I finally could see what the auctioneer was standing on! I guess I've never been that high up before. Raoul didn't sound very old, but, then again, I'm used to Laird Mackintosh doing that effect a little too much. The chandelier didn't shake during the auction, missed that effect.

Overture: Lovely 'pop' from the chandelier! It's not that loud in Toronto!! More lightning than I expected!

Hannibal: Noticed some differences between this cast and Toronto. The ballet dancer's costume have more red in them here. Also, Carlotta and Piangi on their way SL to greet the elephant stop and say something to Mme Giry. (It looked like they were saying "Excuse me, what are those dancers doing where WE are supposed to be?" In Toronto, they just go out. When Julie Schmidt (Carlotta) points to the part of her costume that she wants fixed, the way she points you would HAVE to obey or else Carlotta would chop off your head!

Steven Stein-Grainger last Sunday night made the BIGGEST show of getting on that elephant I have ever seen! He struggled, and struggled...! Soo cute!

The almost killing of Carlotta: SOme differences from Toronto here as well. Could be the actors, it could also be the ocmpany. Anyway, when the new managers are introduced, Carlotta is enthusiatic. In Toronto, she's upset (sort of). Piangi does not seem slighted when he says "Piancere." Julie Schmidt's Carlotta seems, to me, to be a bit more intellectual. She tries to figure out what is going on instead of "everyone is out to get me because I'm perfect." Piangi (Steven Stein-Grainger) seems a bit more intellectual than Piangi's normal cream-filled head. Anyway, back to the almost killing... Julie still does a bit of a laugh in the "Si these things.." speech. Not as much as she did when I saw it in Rochester a few years ago, but she does a bit of laughter. She's acting as though the whole thing was such a big joke (hence the laughing). During this, she brings Andre's (?) head close to her. Then, when she gets to the "What do you know" part, she screams that out in his ear! Hilarious! Piangi's "amateurs' was priceless. He stood there for a minute like he didn't know what to do, then delievered the line.

Think of Me: Rebecca Pitchr was Christine. And I have NEVER heard Christine act more timid at the beginning of this song than she did. Elizabeth DeGrazia used to do a WONDERFUL innocent thing, but she never came close to this timidness.

Angel: Well, the ballet girls (while they're practicing) do a different choreography than in Toronto! Toronto's is the 8 ballet positions of the body with a little 'dressing' on it to make it look harder. MB Tour has movements that my one semester at ballet couldn't help me define! Meg (understudy Kristi Patricia) was a BIT off-key at the begining of this song. But, she's the understudy and got back by the end of the verse. When Meg left the dressing room, I couldn't hear the "Practicing" line that I heard for the first time the last time I saw the show. I think Meg said something, but I'm not positive that she did or what was said.

2nd Angel: If you read my review of Toronto last week, you heard me describe Rene SImard's "Insolent Boy" line. Ted Keegan's was almost as good. VERY UPSET at the word fool. Rebecca Pitcher has a darker/richer voice than any Christine I've seen before. Christine is usually (forget the technical singing terms here) a light soprano. Rebecca's voice was richer (which is good, in my opinion!)

Title Song: Sadly, my view of this song was half obscured by some woman who decided to put her 'large' head on her husband's shoulder in front of me. Thankfully (for her) she moved it before I got the nerve to say something. (But that wasn't the worst of it, these people kept passing these HUGE binochulars to each other. But not passing as any sane being in a theatre would, these people held the binochulars to head's height and SLOWLY passed them to the next person, asking if that person wanted them. Thankfully, this lovely group of 4 people who have probably never been to a theatre before moved AWAY from us at the intermission so we could see the 2nd act clearly with no interruptions.) Back to the show: Lots of candles! I didn't expect the touring show to have as many, but from my view it looked like this tour had almost as many!

MOTN: Ted Keegan has a nice voice. He's definitely not Peter Karrie, but he's good and worth the price of a ticket. I became more impressed with his acting and his voice later on.

The Morning After: Looked like Christine was having some trouble getting the cloak off of her! Oh, the bride doll.. I want to know who that woman is that played the bride doll and shake her hand! In Toronto, the bride doll kind of crunches down so she doesn't have to stand still the entire time. This woman stood. The entire time. i couldnt' tell if she had put the veil over her face or anything. But she stood. Still. For the entire time. I'm sure there are people reading this going "What's so special about that?" But I know the woman that does it in Toronto, and she says it's hard enough staying still until the black-out!

Punjab Lasso: Kristina-Marie Guiget's Mme Giry in Toronto shows that she has some relationship with Buquet. This Mme: nada.

Notes I: VERY funny Firmin while Andre reads his note! When Andre reads the part about the wonderful gala, Firmin said something to the effect of "YES!" This Raoul was one of the best I've ever seen, acting-wise. He ACTED like he was upset and concerned about Christine! Most of the Raoul's I've seen ebfore just sang the part and didn't act! Finally! A concerned Raoul! Julie Schmidt was cute in this scene! During the part where Piangi and Carlotta were upstage left, when Raoul came over to them, they actually talked to him! In Toronto, Piangi turns his back to Raoul and puts his hand up as if to say "Don't go there." I had never heard Carlotta's last note of the Notes scene sung down. I've always heard it at the improvised F. (For those of you that don't know, Julie Schmidt is pregnant with twins and so it's difficult for her to get the high notes now.) But it was nice to hear the *other* version of the chord!

Prima Donna: I have NEVER seen such an upset Carlotta before! EVER! There was CRYING sounds! And I think a few tears, too! She *cried* out the ingenue part! Such a different take on that part. Usually the Carlotta is like "Ok, I'm going to act like the Diva now because you have to win me back." Julie Schmidt's take was "I'm hurt. Now you're probably going to fire me and I'll end up in some old singer's home in Italy thankyouverymuch." When one of the managers (Sorry,I can NEVER tell them apart!) talked about her public, she dismissed her public (or his idea) with a little wave of the hand! Cute! While being twirled in the chair, she took off her glove and waved it in the air. (At least I think she tok it off at that point, there was a pair of binochulars clouding my vision!!) Piangi looked truly happy that the managers had won back the diva's good graces. Oh, Carlotta's costume didn't look like it went all the way up to the neck. Could be because this was Julie's third costume she's gone through in her pregnancy so it's not as constricting.

Il Muto: Christine's skirt is *yellow*. Why yellow? I like the greenish colour in Toronto better. Yellow is probably my LEAST favourite colour in the world! And it clashes with the bed! Anyway...The Countess and Don Atilio's kiss was cute. They actually kissedon the cheek, unlike how I've seen it done lately (kissing air). All right, I think Don Atilio has the lung capacity of.. well, let's say 50 men. I have NEVER, EVER heard that note held out HALF that length! It got to the point where I was wondering how long he could hold it! I MISS that in a Don Atilio! Lately in Toronto, they don't seem to hold it so long. (Even though the last guy held it out a bit longer than they had been.) WOW. Wish I could hold a note out for half that time! Not much kissing between Carlotta and Christine, I didn't even notice if Christine did that little leg twitching thing. (Which may be a Toronto thing, not sure.) Julie Schmidt's upper notes on the "hahaha's" were lovely. Shorter than the other ha's, but a nice tone and everything. Carlotta did the GOOD actor thing when the skirt prop was missing and pretended it was there. Different from other Carlotta's who dont' seem to quite know what to do about that problem. (It seemed to me that Julie's Carlotta seemed to know more about singing and acting than other Carlottas. She seemed to be in it because she truly loved to sing and not the fame or money or men.) Piangi came out during the croaks earlier than what I'm used to. He kinda came out like "Who is making that noise? Carlotta? Um.. what is going on here?" versus the "Carlotta's croaking!" way.

Ballet: I MISS the way the ballet was called on! The first few times I saw the show, this is the way they did it and lately, the laughs just weren't there. Firmin (?) just stood there while trying to figure out what act the ballet was in. Then, after the set came down, he suddenly remembered. He must have bumped into every ballet girl. The first time, both he and the girl let out a nice, loud scream.

Stranger/AIAOY: My least favourite parts of the show. The sang. Christine and Raoul kissed a little more thna usual. Yadda yadda yadda.

Reprise: Nice! (Of course, had those stupid binoculars obstructing my view for part of it!) VERY upset Phantom. To make the chandelier fall, he said "GO!" instead of Toronto's "FALL!" By the way, note to the chandelier people, please find a way to make it fall faster. Or tell the actors to move in slow motion. They all look like deer caught in headlights instead of just Christine looking that way.

Masquerade: Cute! I believe the choreoraphy for the Christine/Raoul dance in the middle is different from Toronto. Not sure though, because I rarely pay attention to those two characters. ;) Carlotta and Piangi did a cute little twirl as they started to go up the stairs! Just as they got to the bottom of them (on their way up) they both did at least a 360 turn, making Piangi's little cape thing swirl out. By the way, while all the principles were in downstage center and dancing, I do believe I saw Piangi try and chase after Meg. Could it be? Piangi has another girl in mind? ;) Lots of sparks after "Red Death" left! Masquerade also included the second (and last) singing mistake I caught. The cast got a bit 'carried away' with the tempo and sped up a little. But within about 3 bars cast and orchestra were back together again. But for those measures, they had me a bit worried there!

Mme Giry/Raoul: Well, they talked. Is there more I can really say about this scene?

Notes II: When Carlotta turns to do her lines, Julie didn't throw up the script in a flurry that the women in Toronto do. Missed that. Also missed was Sandra Margolese's reaction when Andre and Firmin were passing the script towards her (she backed off like it had the plague). I did like how the script went right around the four (managers, Piangi and Carlotta) and ended up back at Piangi JUST in time for him to throw it down! I can't wait to see it Saturday so I can see what facials Julie Scmidt does at the end of the scene. I think Sandra spoiled me and I was lookingfor that 'disenchanted diva' face that was about to burst into tears. But, Julie's take on it was equally good. She stood there as if she KNEW that Christine would not last long doing the lead. Julie's Carllotta has confidence.

Sitzprobe: Piangi acted like he really was trying to get the notes right. Instead of just launching into his notes, he listened, thought about it, then sang. The last time he said "Ah, I see." When Carlotta says "The composer is not..", Julie turned her back a bit from Mme Giry and said it almost matter-of-factly. Her last line ("Those who tangle..") didn't get to the screamingscreeching part (probably due to the fact that she can't breathe like she used to), so it was a little anti-climactic.

Wishing: Are the gates on the tomb supposed to open anymore? Or did they ever? I could swear they used to be tonight they didn't. (Again, could be the fact this is the MB Tour and not Toronto.) Rebecca Pitcher has a wonderful voice. Nice, deep and rich. (Did I say that before?) She's definitely up there with Glenda Balkan!

Wandering: Nice blend between Rebecca and Ted. Ted's voice goes between a hard edge and the sweetest, smoothest voice you've ever heard. And he knows when to use which 'voice' too! Can I say again I LOVE this Raoul? He ACTED scared for Christine! And Christine, for her part, looked totally in the Phantom's control. Her arms were up reaching to him. Nice work between the three leads.

Don Juan: Julie doesn't flirt with that one man in the scene like the other Carlotta's I've seen. It could be due to the fact that Carlotta has the hots for the Slave Master ;) Or it oculd just be that this is a different company...

PONR: Nice! I could almost see Christine's face flushing from the wine! At the end of this, Rebecca had a bit of trouble getting the hood off the Phantom! She tried twice, and failed. Then Ted turned and pulled it off himself.

Backstage at the Opera: Does that curtain say "Defense de Fumeur"? I don't believe Toronto has words written on theirs! By the way, if you had ANY doubt about Carlotta's feelngs for Piangi, they would have been GONE if you heard Carlotta carrying on! First thing I heard was a scream from her, then what seemed to me a garble of words because she was so upset.

Final Lair: This was quite possibly the finest ENSEMBLE Final Lair scene I have seen EVER. The way those three worked together was WONDERFUL. I can't say enough about the trio! Richard Todd Adams (Raoul) actually STRUGGLED so much when he had the noose on him. (Unlike a certain former Raoul in Toronto who just stood there like his life wasn't in danger.) Ted Keegan was so wonderfully animated throughout this scene, he was lovely to watch! The audience could actually TELL that he was upset and didn't know what to do. That he was scared of losing Christine. And i'm not even talking solely about the actions! The hardness of the voice came out here too. Wonderful. Rebecca Pitcher probably does the best job of keeping the phantom away from Raoul than any Christine I've ever seen. She seemed to grow some strength while Raoul was in the noose and the way she stood between the two men was like *she* was the man protecting the person she loved. "You try my patience..." was the only LINE I didn't like in this entire scene. But that's because I was spoiled by Peter Karrie and even by Rene Simard last week. When Christine left the final time, the way Ted said the I love yous was so heartbreaking, I almost cried for the first time since the second time I saw the show. (Too many years ago to count if you really want to know.) Oh, someone Ted and Rebecca don't seem to have had the pitching lessons yet. The bouquet went to the front of the organ, the veil went beside it and that mannequin, she barely flew five feet.

Ayway, a wonderful cast that is definitely worth seeing. (And get something a little closer than the $15 seats if you want to see those facials!)

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