Last week the University of Florida presented their production of The Phantom of the Opera in the University Auditorium. Making excellent use of the building’s collegiate gothic architecture and elaborate organ, the setting made the audience feel as if they were transported to the time period in which the show takes place.
The University Auditorium itself was constructed in 1924, just 12 years after the gothic novel released and one year before the first film production of the show; a silent film adaptation directed by Rupert Julian. The show itself was not turned into a musical, or some may argue an operetta, until 1986 when Andrew Lloyd Webber set the original story, Le Fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux, to music.
Although the auditorium does not boast the size nor the acoustics of an opera house, the lighting, hammer-beam wood work, and high ceiling was perfect for the production. In the show, three characters, including Christine Daae’s love interest, Raoul, watch Christine perform. The cast utilized the side balconies of the auditorium to show that they themselves were in the audience watching Christine from box seats, and making the audience feel even more like part of the show. “I like how they used the entire auditorium as the set,” said freshman, Connor Bradley, who had never seen they show before or even set foot in the University Auditorium, “the show was really enjoyable and the organ was really cool.” This performance was unique because of the Andrew Anderson Memorial Organ. Most performances of Phantom use recordings of the iconic organ music blasted at the beginning of the show. However, the auditorium’s elaborate instrument that’s boasts 99 ranks and 5,400 pipes was utilized to perform the music and deliver a stunning backdrop for the stage.
I attended Saturday’s performance which featured a different cast than Friday and Sunday’s performances. “I thought they were very professional,” said Bradley, who attended Saturday’s performance as well, along with freshman Taryn Tolle. “I thought it was very well done,” said Tolle, “the special effects were cool and all of the singers did a very good job, especially Joshua Mazur [the Phantom].” Tolle had never seen the show before, “there were certain parts that were confusing, like at the end” she said, referring to the scene where Raoul, played by Daniel Womack, comes to rescue Christine, played by Kristina Manning, from the phantom. Tolle also said jokingly, “I thought those stage kisses were a little more than stage kisses.” Tolle laughed, “which is a testament to their acting.” She finished with saying “overall, the show was very well done.”
Having seen The Phantom of the Opera many times and in various theatres, I can say this was truly a unique and interesting performance. The location, resources, and student performers made the show different and wonderful to watch.
To see other performances on the University of Florida campus visit performingarts.ufl.edu/events.
At the VIP reception after the show Joshua Mazur and Kristina Manning high-five. Kristina Manning said, "We were both emotional that it was over because Josh and I got really close over the course of the show." Manning laughed, "we just didn't know what to say so we high-fived."