Plush, dark and all a Romantic could hope for—and every night they cry as the Phantom loses the girl, as he must. Phantom was an institution before it was a Vegas show. But it opened in 2006 at the Venetian after the Broadway West bandwagon had begun to lose its wheels. Eventually there was a string of failures: Hairspray, Avenue Q, Spamalot. Even with the opening of The Lion King this year, no one talks about Broadway West anymore.
But even back in 2006 there were so many nerves about the huge amount of money invested into this production that the name was changed from Phantom of the Opera to Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular to reflect that this was indeed a Vegas show, not simply Broadway in Vegas. Good move, though it was a name change that Andrew Lloyd Webber hoped would be reversed.
The show has survived the collapse of the Broadway West model, a nightclub revolution that pulled people’s money away from showrooms and, now, the recession. But the tourists keep coming, because “spectacular” is also the correct word for this production, which equals Webber’s overheated music with aggressive stagecraft, including fireworks, as well as an extraordinary chandelier and the re-creation of an opera house complete with mannequin spectators. Though it’s cut down considerably in length from the Broadway show, many who have seen both think Vegas offers the better Phantom. Certainly there is no other show on the Strip that brings together an engrossing plot connected to so many special effects and then adds to that brooding stage sets that are equaled only by the best of Cirque.