The Off Broadway Theatre presents a parody of ‘Phantom’ with local twistMar 30, 2021 09:58AM ● By Katherine Weinstein
Eric Jensen, Josh Astle and Denise Adams appear in The Off Broadway Theatre production of “The Phantom of the Off Broadway Theatre.” (Photo courtesy Jake Anderson/The Off Broadway Theatre)
By Katherine Weinstein| [email protected]
At a recent rehearsal, cast members of “The Phantom of the Off Broadway Theatre” were coy about giving away details about the jokes in the show. But their smiling eyes and laughter indicated that audiences are in for a good time.
The Off Broadway Theatre will present their spoof of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” with a Utah twist on the stage of Draper Historic Theatre April 2 through May 1.
“This is like the Weird Al (Yankovic) version of ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ the fun version,” said Josh Astle, likening the production to music by the song parody maestro. Astle, who plays the Phantom added, “This is definitely one of the most fun shows I’ve been in.”
With its melodramatic plot, operatic melodies and over-the-top stage effects, Webber’s “Phantom” is ripe for a comic parody. “We puncture the grandiosity,” explained director Jake Anderson.
“It’s the same, basic story,” added Kyra Furman, who plays Christine. “But we’re making it fresh, light and fun.” In this production, for example, “Christine doesn’t take herself as seriously as in the original show,” explained Furman. “She has big dreams, but she’s a little bit of a ditz.”
The Off Broadway Theatre productions always incorporate a bit of Utah culture. In “The Phantom of the Off Broadway Theatre,” written by OBT Artistic Director Eric Jensen, the setting of the story has been moved from the Paris Opera House to a vaudeville theater in Salt Lake City at the turn of the last century. The Phantom lives in the tunnels underneath the city.
The plot of the original musical, a love triangle between ingénue singer Christine, the handsome Raoul, and the mysterious Phantom who seeks to make Christine a star and win her love is still at the heart of “The Phantom of the Off Broadway Theatre.” Unlike the original, however, the script is full of light banter and sight gags.
A troupe of vaudeville performers, with larger than life personalities, rounds out the cast. Among them is the opera diva Carlotta whose grandiose ego is skewered by her fellow performers. “The thing that has been the most fun is learning to improvise,” said Chareese Carter, who has taken on the role of Carlotta.
The actors are encouraged to ad-lib their own comic takes on the material and play off of the audience reaction. As a result, every performance is slightly different. “We have the freedom to adapt to the show to the audience,” Astle said.
Jeff North, who plays, “the handsome hero, Raoul,” added, “The Off Broadway Theatre does such a good job of pulling the audience into the show.”
The artistic team is attuned to building on the comic strengths of the actors and recognizing unique situations. Angela Day plays a vaudeville performer who has a dog act. Her real-life service dog, a Great Dane named Coda, has been incorporated into the show. “We do a song and dance number and some really awful vaudeville jokes,” Day said. Coda has learned how to play patty-cake and mastered some dance moves.
“The Phantom of the Opera” is as well-known for its iconic set pieces and special effects—the chandelier that comes crashing down on stage, for example—as it is for the music. Stage Manager Erin Orr explained that “The Phantom of the Off Broadway Theatre” pokes fun at that element of the show as well. “We send up the set pieces,” she said. “There is a chandelier…” Orr laughed but declined to get into details.
“Any of the key elements that you think of from the original ‘Phantom’ is in this show,” Day said. “It also uses the themes of the original songs.” The music for “The Phantom of the Off Broadway Theatre,” arranged by Dave Cooke, evokes Webber’s melodies but with distinctive differences.
The director and several of the actors echoed the sentiment that this “Phantom” will tickle the funny bones of people who are fans of the original musical, as well as those who are not.
“It’s a really well-written comedy with sharp jokes and well-seasoned actors,” Anderson said. “This is a show where people can laugh together, mock ‘Phantom,’ and have a great time for an hour and a half.”
“The Phantom of the Off Broadway Theatre” will be presented by The Off Broadway Theatre on the stage of Draper Historic Theatre April 2 through May 1. Draper Historic Theatre is located at 12366 S. 900 East. For performance dates, times and tickets, visit www.theobt.org/.