THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Civic Opera House. A temperamental spook is using seemingly supernatural powers to terrorize the Lyric Opera's Ardis Krainik Theatre. No, the ghost of Lyric cofounder Carol Fox hasn't returned to haunt the auditorium named in memory of her secretary-turned-successor. But if Fox could hear the drivel now being performed in the theater she helped create, she'd roll over in her grave.
This touring edition of the Cameron Mackintosh/Really Useful Theatre Company's Broadway hit--based on Gaston Leroux's time-tested tale of a monstrous genius obsessed with a pretty young soprano--boasts stylishly stylized staging by Harold Prince and Gillian Lynne and splendiferous costumes and sets by Maria Bjornson. But none of this can disguise the puerility of Andrew Lloyd Webber's score, which alternates between shlocky imitations of Puccini and heavy-handed spoofs of such composers as Mozart, Gounod, and Stravinsky. The parodies of grand opera's indulgences and inanities are briefly amusing, and juxtaposed with scenes in smoky cellars, they give Bjornson opportunities for one lavish design after another.
But as Phantom winds down to its tedious protracted ending, its attempt to build romance and suspense is repeatedly undermined by the saccharine music. Melodies that might be inoffensive in an elevator are grating when the singers are overamplified to the point where they sound dubbed--and the melodramatic, often wobbly delivery can't disguise the emotional shallowness of this overhyped cash cow. --Albert Williams