Revised and Enhanced Phantom Gets a Lair in Las Vegas; Previews Begin June 4

News   Revised and Enhanced Phantom Gets a Lair in Las Vegas; Previews Begin June 4 As construction of a new theatre continues at The Venetian, the Las Vegas resort, details about the upcoming resident production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera in the Nevada desert are coming to light.

The new 90-minute Las Vegas staging directed by Harold Prince and utilizing the vision of the show's original London and Broadway production designer Maria Björnson will have its first preview June 4 at The Venetian. A gala opening performance is planned for June 24, a spokesperson told Playbill.com.

The production will play in a new 1,800-seat venue being tailor-built — at a cost of $40 million — for the musical. Designed by David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group, the theatre will allow for special effects and interaction like never before, creating an environmental theatrical experience not seen in other productions of the international smash, Lloyd Webber told Playbill.com.

(The Las Vegas production itself will cost $35 million on top of the venue construction cost, a spokesperson told Playbill.com.)

As previously reported, the interior will look like a 19th-century opera house. The musical is set in and around the Paris Opera House in the late 19th-century.

The Rockwell Group includes among its recent projects the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, the W New York and W Union Square Hotels in New York, and the Motown Center in Detroit. Rockwell's theatrical design credits on Broadway include The Rocky Horror Show, Hairspray, All Shook Up and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The Las Vegas Phantom will feature a full orchestra of live musicians.

The production will be produced by the Really Useful Group Ltd. (Andrew Lloyd Webber's company) and Live Nation (formerly Clear Channel Entertainment). Really Useful refers to the Vegas production as "a permanent theatrical installation."

"We're looking forward to a high old time adapting Phantom to a brand new theatre, with the capability for some additional surprises," director Prince said in 2004, when the project was first announced. "…We hope [the production] will keep us at The Venetian for decades!"

A cast of 46 will be employed. The roles of the Phantom and Christine will be double cast along with a couple parts. There will be 10 shows a week (typical of Vegas, but not of Broadway).

Group sales reservations are currently being accepted at (866) 633-0195 or via email groups@livenation.com.

Single tickets (ranging $75-$150 each) will go on sale to the general public in the coming months. Casting and an on-sale date will be announced in February.

Actress Rebecca Spencer announced that she will play Madame Giry in the production. Spencer previously played Carlotta 15 years ago in the Hamburg, Germany production of the international hit musical.

On Jan. 9, The Phantom of the Opera became the longest running show on Broadway, surpassing Lloyd Webber's Cats.

The musical, with lyrics by Don Black and Richard Stilgoe, was inspired by the classic novel "Le Fantôme de l'Opéra" by Gaston Leroux. It tells the story of a masked figure — a genius musician — who lurks beneath the Paris Opera House and falls in love with soprano Christine Daae, his student. Anyone who gets in the way of his relationship with her — or his goal to make her the star of the opera house — is at risk.

"It's looking very exciting to me," Lloyd Webber previously told Playbill.com. "It's going to be its own show, but it's very true to the spirit of the Maria Björnson [scenic and costume] design. Hal's directing it, so it's not going to be allowed to become just a 'Vegas show.' But obviously we'll be able to do certain things that perhaps we couldn't really afford to do in London or Broadway."

The special effects will be more spectacular than before, the team promises, with an enhanced and more intense scene involving the show's crashing chandelier.

"Phantom is not the great technological show that everybody thinks it is," Lloyd Webber said. "It has, in actual fact, some great Victorian tricks and that's about it. In Vegas, for example you'll come into an opera house that is, of course, built [for the production]. It's a bit more like the film to that degree, where we built our opera house. There was no opera house in the Venetian. Because we've been able to do it from the word go, we've got…various things that you couldn't possibly do unless you had built it purely for the staging of the Phantom musical. I don't want to give away the tricks."

On Broadway, the show runs 2 hours and 30 minutes or so. Was cutting the show to 90 minutes painful for the composer?

"No, not really, because quite a lot of them had already been done for the film," he said. "There are certain things that work well in the theatre that don't necessarily work in the cinema, and in the course of finding what those were, and what ended up not in the film, I was very much able to suggest [changes for the Vegas run] to them: 'Look, if you take this scene out here, which we did in the film, it's not going to affect everything terribly badly.'"

There's quite a lot in the film that is different from the stage show, the composer said.

"For example," Lloyd Webber said, "in the film you don't get the second manager's scene, which happens in the second act [and includes 'Notes'/'Twisted Every Way']. It's reduced down: Lines from it that are important have been taken but they've been put into other scenes. We've taken quite a lot of those things that we've done in the film [and incorporated them for the Vegas version]."

The Phantom of the Opera had its world premiere Oct. 9, 1986 at Her Majesty's Theatre in London, winning every major British theatre award including the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards. Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman starred in the leading roles (and reprises the roles on Broadway).

The Broadway production opened on Jan. 26, 1988, and won seven 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Productions of the musical are currently playing in London, New York, Madrid, Kyoto (Japan), Stuttgart (Germany), and Copenhagen, as well as on one national tour in the United States and one national tour in Japan.

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