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Posted: July 7, 2010 12:01 a.m.

'Phantom' fabulous at Fox

The music of the night will come to an end for Atlanta this month as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic "The Phantom of the Opera" concludes its farewell engagements at The Fabulous Fox Theatre.

Broadway’s longest-running musical is based on the classic 1911 novel "Le Fantome de L’Opera" by Gaston Leroux. It tells the story of a masked man — a musical genius, who lurks beneath the catacombs of Paris’ Opera Populaire. He falls in love with a young soprano, Christine Daae, and devotes himself to nurturing her talents; tormenting, even killing, those who dare defy him.

The Phantom (played by Tim Martin Gleason), walks a fine line between tortured hero and spooky stalker, but is by far the most interesting character in the play. Is he loathed, like he believes, because of his deformity, or is it because he has become a monster? Is his obvious talent scorned because of his looks — would Christine (Trista Moldovan) love him if he were as handsome as her suitor Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny (Sean MacLaughlin)? Tormented by his own mind, he turns his rage on others.

The opera’s star soprano Carlotta (Kim Stengel) receives ridicule, the new owners of the opera house Monsieur Andre (D.C. Anderson) and Monsieur Firmin (Michael McCoy) get threats, male lead Ubaldo Piangi (Luke Grooms) and a stagehand are murdered — all because they get in the way of the phantom’s goal, which is Christine.

For her part, Christine swoons; she whines and ultimately, leads him on. She wants the Phantom when he’s singing but when he’s not she wants the more handsome Raoul. She’s intrigued and frightened all at once.

But the parts are played to perfection. Moldovan is believable as the wide-eyed ingénue and MacLaughlin equally so as her simple suitor. Their duet of "All I Ask of You" is beautiful, and Moldovan’s rendition of "Think of Me" brought tears to my eyes.

Stengel played the part of the opera diva Carlotta fine, and Anderson and McCoy are sufficiently amusing as the new owners of the opera house, men more concerned with their nouveau riche appearance than the actual running of an opera house.

However the real star of the show is Gleason as the Phantom. The Fox is his opera house and he stalks it. At times he appears at the top of the stage hanging from the ceiling like some giant spider, other times his silhouette can be seen as he chuckles ghoulishly — always there, always watching.

This was my first time seeing "The Phantom of the Opera" and although its Atlanta run ends July 18, there’s still ample opportunity to purchase tickets. It was delightful, and time well-spent.

Slowly, gently, the show is coming to an end. There have been over 17 million people who have seen it in the United States — if you don’t trust me, trust the numbers and visit www.foxtheatre.org for show times or www.ticketmaster.com to purchase tickets. Show times vary and tickets range from $17-$64.

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