MASQUER PIECE THEATRE

Less persuasive is John Schroeder, whose Raoul looks like the handsome hunk that is required, and whose vocal gifts are perfectly adequate when they are not being overwhelmed by McEwan, but whose acting is of the earnest school.

But what is a Phantom without a Phantom? For the answer to that question, you just might have to shell out $62 and traipse over to Tempe to see how ineffectual Grant Norman is, but how little that affects your enjoyment of the show.

Lacking the graceful physical beauty of the original Phantom, Michael Crawford, and lacking the complex vocal characterization of the silver-throated Davis Gaines (Broadway's current Phantom), Norman manages to chew all 2.5 tons of scenery in compensation. His voice has the oddest nasal whine, with an overripe vibrato that could rattle the 1,000-pound chandelier. His acting is never simple when it can be baroque, with the result that any sympathy we might feel for this creature is eviscerated by his desperate clutching at our throats, demanding pity. We are repulsed by his lack of humanity, which distorts that entire meaning of the story, in which Christine is meant to come to love the beauty of his soul through the creativity of his music and his devotion to her talent.

Still, if you don't know that the last image of the mask is meant to break your heart, you will still find plenty to be thrilled by. That famous crashing chandelier, by the way, crashes more spectacularly here than in any previous incarnation in New York, London or Los Angeles. I guess they finally figured out how to do it right.

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