It's hard to safely crash a 1,500 pound chandelier into even the most enthusiastic of audiences. But boy, are they giving it a good go.
"The Phantom of the Opera" has returned once more to the Orpheum in downtown Minneapolis. Bringing new life to its aging Broadway predecessor, this production trades in those iconic floating candles for something a little more… spectacular. Don't take my word for it - it's in the title, "The Spectacular New Production." The facelift comes with new sets, lights, illusions, and a bright and brooding chandelier.
A character in itself, this chandelier shakes, rattles, shoots pyro, lights up, and yes, it drops… It also hands out souvenirs. At a recent performance, a certain mother (mine) couldn't help but spend intermission packing a goodie bag - picking up the chandelier's crash "remnants" from Act 1.
"I do love a good chandelier," said Derrick Davis who plays the Phantom. "And I promise, you won't miss the original."
Davis knows messing with a good thing can be disastrous. But this is no disaster beyond imagination.
"Don't be wary at all. I saw the original 14 times before I even knew about this new tour, you're gonna get the same music, exact same costumes. But it's just so much more real," Davis said.
Protecting the original material, while sweeping off technological cobwebs is a mantra for the production team. Stage manager Mitch Hodges worked the original Phantom, and yet, he's grateful this tour got an update.
"The old show was designed in the 80s… so between 1988 and the 2000s there's been a huge technology jump," Hodges said. "We're now using things like Bluetooth and wireless technologies."
Even a new tour needs a refresher now and then. Earlier this month, its flashy chandelier got some new bling - 6,000 new crystals.
When forced to identify their preferences between this modern Phantom and the production of yesteryear, the cast plays coy. After years on the road they've become good diplomats.
"I think it's all reimagined so its hard to compare apples to oranges," Hodges said. "The directors and creative team on the new show wanted it to feel very cinematic, so you're not waiting for set changes, everything flows, wipes away to keep the story moving."
Giving the show a "music box" feel of sorts, gigantic set pieces revolve in a circle around the action - the chandelier and the Phantom watching over it all.
"I love the opera manager's office, in the original production it's very flat - but here, it's kind of like the Phantom is above the office walls, keeping an eye on these characters," Davis said.
For longtime Phantom fans who wish to cling to their past, this new tour could be a painful endeavor. But it doesn't have to be.
"If you come to see the new show, put the old one out of your head. You're seeing an entirely new production," Hodges said. "Don't get caught up in the old show because a new one can be entirely awesome."
"The Phantom of the Opera" runs through December 31st at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis. Tickets are available at HennepinTheatreTrust.org
Abraham Swee is a multi-media producer at FOX 9 covering the arts across central Minnesota. Send story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org