The Phantom

(The Fox Theatre, June 29)

Jul 12, 2006 at 4:00 am
Enter: The Phantom! — brooding, elegant, eternally corrupted by the horror of his curse, his prison, his fate — and, in the face of it all, wearing a tuxedo! Sure, sure...understood: This is a period piece; happened in France, long ago. The Phantom would've worn a tux. But think of it as a spit in the eye to Fate, an existential wad of defiant sputum — as if to say, I shall attend this nightmare like a gentleman, with dignity and grace! — defiance perfected, in formalwear; the poetic and eloquent fuck you! Did you hear it? It was a singing fuck you, no less.

Not fuck you, of course, but fuck Fate. Fate and the horror of solitude.

John Cudia's performance steals your soul — The Phantom of the Opera through the prism of Baudelaire and Camus, with a direct line to Dracula, Batman, Marlon Brando. It curls psychosis and romanticism into one, an homage to everything that is dark, muscular and poetic. The portrayal is universal — whether a Lautrec-painted shadow or the Phantom in the Clash's Death Is a Star, it's the same guy.

Finally the Phantom gives up Christine. The painful thrust touches every vertebra. Raoul and Christine float away, singing their words of love — every word of which the Phantom, in his anguish, overhears. But they're billboard photographs now, two-dimensional, equaling a world of grief.

Then, Poof! The Phantom's gone! No more music of the night.

The last word on existentialism. No, the final refusal, the final...

Are you listening? Make no mistake. This is you vanishing, too.