David Ruttura, Resident Director of “Phantom of the Opera,” recently spoke to me regarding his latest adaptation, and lent the following insights.
The musical, based on the 1909 book by Gaston Leroux, takes place in the Garnier Opera House in Paris, where a large and ornate chandelier really did snap and kill a patron, and which has been rumored to be haunted for over a century. Paul Brown, the set designer of the touring company, pays homage to Garnier by designing new sets based on the actual opera house. Nixing the iconic staircase of the original production, Brown instead recreates the Grand Foyer’s Hall of Mirrors —which, completely plated in gold with dozens of chandeliers, murals, and luxurious curtains, is no small feat.
The Company performs “Masquerade.” (Photo Credit: Alastair Muir)
David Ruttura paints a beautifully sinister image of the new Phantom. This is a world full of shadows and darkness. Taking place at the turn of the century, electricity is a newer concept. Instead of bright lights, gas lamps and torches are used for illumination. This creates a more mysterious world, where you can’t see beyond your own light. When shadows lurk and strange noises are heard, you can’t simply flip a switch to see the room; instead you have to actually explore each corner. It’s a suspenseful and mysterious world filled with shadows and darkness for this Phantom.
But just who is the Phantom? Tortured genius? Murderous mastermind? Supernatural being with a magical lasso? The character has been open to much interpretation. But in this adaption he is a more realistic, nonmagical human: a man beyond the myth. Ruttura describes a person left alone and in darkness his entire life. Psychologically, as well as physically damaged, he is everything: genius and madness.
“The Phantom of the Opera” opened in London 28 years ago and is a Broadway classic. To inspire a new generation, this is a reimagined version; a more cinematic, gritty Phantom. It’s a story of passion–for music, for artistic vision and for life and romance. While it keeps the beautiful music and songs that has made it one of the longest running musicals in London and NYC, there will be a new, more lavish Masquerade dance scene, newly designed basement lair, and tons of other surprises that make this an exciting theatrical event in Norfolk. Personally, I can’t wait.
Phantom will be at Chrysler Hall in Downtown Norfolk from Jan.8-18th. For more info or tickets, click here.