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Fifty Years of a Masterpiece – Azar Lawrence Quartet Pays Homage to A Love Supreme At Jazz Standard

“No matter what…it is with God.  He is gracious and merciful.  His way is in love, through which we all are.  It is truly – a love supreme.” – John Coltrane.  On December 9, 1964 the John Coltrane Quartet, consisting of John Coltrane on tenor sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums visited the Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs to record one of the most influential, brilliant concept albums ever recorded.  That album was A Love Supreme.

A Love Supreme was recorded in a single session and is considered Coltrane’s most seminal work.  It is poetic, a sermon and a testimony translated into a magnificent aural feast that inspires the most rapturous emotions about God, spirituality and enlightenment.   To listen to A Love Supreme can be inspiring and life changing; it’s the type of work most artists strive to achieve, not matter the medium, but are lucky if they get remotely close to.  Coltrane died almost three years after this recording at the age of 40.  He never got to witness how this opus impacted the music world, but I feel safe in saying that Coltrane’s autobiography and legacy was summed up in this piece.  For me it was the musical equivalent to the “Big Bang Theory” – a melodic explosion that created an alternate universe where I was able to explore and gain a deeper understanding of the world in which our bodies reside. In other words, A Love Supreme was an introduction to the metaphysical plane here on Earth.

Jazz StandardIt has been 50 years since Coltrane and company recorded A Love Supreme in Englewood, New Jersey, and its relevance is just as potent today as it was back in the 1960s.  In recognition of this important contribution to jazz and American music, Jazz Standard enlisted saxophone virtuoso Azar Lawrence to celebrate the creation and recording of this masterpiece.  The Azar Lawrence Quartet includes Benito Gonzalez on piano, Billy Hart on drums and Reggie Workman, who worked with Coltrane, on bass. The celebration was over two nights, December 9 and 10, and was a fitting tribute to this piece.  Coltrane once said, “God breathes through us so completely…so gently we hardly feel it… yet, it is our everything.”  It’s evident that the most high was present during the recording of A Love Supreme and the spirit of Coltrane was at Jazz Standard when the Azar Lawrence Quartet performed selections from this work.  These men breathed passion into a work that is already filled with emotion.  They were awe-inspiring.  I fell deeper in love with this work, if it’s possible to do so.  They played the house down and it was one of the best tributes I have been privileged to witness with my own eyes.  The vibrations could be felt in every corner of the room.  I believe we all left feeling connected.  Thank you John Coltrane for creating a work that will last as long as human history exists.  And thank you to Jazz Standard and the Azar Lawrence Quartet for allowing us to rejoice in a work and an artist that used his abilities to uplift humankind.

 

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Love Letters Will End Broadway Run On December 14

We all know the saying, “All good things must come to an end.”  Seems like that’s the case for Love Letters, the play will be ending its run earlier than its original end date of February 15.  In fact, the last performance is set for December 14.  Although it’s short notice, there’s still time to see one of the best plays this season.  Now I’m well aware that all things, good and bad, have their time, but if you ask me this is one good thing that has come to an end way too soon.

A national tour of the production will launch in fall 2015. Tour cities, dates and stars will be announced soon.

SAMO

Written by Afrika Brown, F.A.M.E NYC Editor and Founder

Tears etch scars down my cheeks

Fresh blood, new death each week

Black bodies and Blue justice gone viral

New day but its HIStory we rival

We scream no justice, no peace

We create footsteps in the streets

Covering the prints of elders before

But what really lies at the core

Is it my melanin?

The place I live in

The coiled roots of my dome

Or the fact that this land was never my home

We contribute to the prosperity of red, white and blue

But Uncle Sam don’t give a damn ‘bout folks with my hue

Occupy Wall Street, Hands Up –Don’t Shoot

And while we “die-in” stores, corporations still get loot

Weren’t we sick and tired with Fannie Lou Hamer

Technologies advance with frozen minds, it don’t get no stranger

Are we the problem or the solution?

The cure or the pollution

Maybe we are everything you see

Cause this land made for you and me

Is a whore born out of hypocrisy

A blind lady holding up scales

The bitch is deaf too and dead men tell no tales

Seventeen watching Rodney King

Twenty –two years, new video, same sting

Can you see the ring I’m trying to paint?

Full circle of blood smeared and stained

With the crimson of Mike Brown, Sean Bell, Trayvon

Amadou, Anthony Baez… do I have to go on?

No, I don’t need to go any farther

Cause the tombstones go past Eric Garner

Unarmed man blasted in a project stairwell

And still you don’t think Jim Crow ain’t alive and well

Dead black men just pictures on your TV

Not too different from black men swinging on trees

They called them strange fruit

KKK, zealous pigs, identical boot

Bearing down our larynx

Shouting NEXT GENERATION…NEXT

So I can’t trust the boys in blue

Or the boys in blue

And red bandannas who

Fit the criminal profile

But wait…we all fit the profile

Of being descendants of the three-fifths lifestyle

Cause when these laws were being made

My great-grandparents were slaves

For a country made for you and me

It’s been slow in spreading equality

And while the twentieth century is written about in books

The new millennium carries the shadow of a familiar look

And while CNN tries to discover who really is the foe

I say it’s just the ghost of SAMO

 

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The Illusionists Bring Their Magic to The Great White Way

One can be inclined to say that magic happens every night on Broadway.  Each performance brings the audience into new worlds and is always different than the night before.  There is nothing more exciting than seeing a live performance, that is until you add the heighten sensation of watching someone try to wiggle themselves out of a straightjacket suspended high above the stage or shoot an apple off a woman’s head, all to the beat of some funky music and pyrotechnics shooting from the stage.   And if that’s your bag, then a night of captivating thrills and pulsating amusement are guaranteed when you step into the Marquis Theater for The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible.

Gone are men in penguin suits and top hats pulling rabbits out of a hat and drawing multi-hued scarves out of their pockets.  The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible has all the slickness and pomp of a Las Vegas show, the sounds of hot, pumping dance party and the satisfaction that makes the ticket well worth the price.  Most of the tricks performed have been around for decades; however The Illusionists give them a 21st century injection that gives them a fresh appeal.

The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible is an ensemble of seven magicians each a specialist in his field.  Adam Trent, known as The Futurist, combines dance, comedy and pizzazz to create a routine that is eye-catching and innovative.  If Liberace and Ethel Merman had a son, he would probably be Jeff Hobson, The Trickster.  He is the epitome of showmanship.  His tricks are only rivaled by his wit, which leaves the audience in stitches.  Following the legacy of Harry Houdini, Andrew Basso, The Escapologist, death-defying stunts dare to look the grim reaper in the eye and smile.  No one can resist the temptation of watching someone put their life on the line on a nightly basis.  Dan Sperry creates a cocktail of Goth, wry humor and trickery that is sure to creep you out your seat as The Anti-Conjuror.  You will squirm and be mesmerized at the same time.  Who doesn’t like a good man sawed in half trick?  The Inventor, Kevin James, revamps this old school classic with new school charm.  Silent but spectacular Aaron Crow, The Warrior, kicks magical ass.  Yu Ho-Jin is called The Manipulator and his moniker couldn’t be more appropriate.  If we were in a different century he might be going up before a council for witchcraft that is how convincing he is.  His style and approach to performing gives the impression of almost being supernatural, it’s like his tricks are an extension of himself.  It is beguiling and beautiful.

The Illusionists hail from U.S., Italy, Belgium and South Korea and have been featured on The Disney Channel and NBC’s America’s Got Talent and are the future of magic.  It’s a fun show that is great for a family night, an evening with friends or a date.   Witness The Illusionists while they are still on Broadway, I’m sure they will conjure a smile on your face as they did mine.

Photo courtesy of The Illusionistslive.com

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Hollywood Legends Spread Love on Broadway in Love Letters

Once upon time people set pen to paper to express sentiments of passion, frustration, joy and sorrow.  They made announcements about the milestones in their life and created records that captured moments in their lives, but with the advent of Ma Bell, cell phones, text messaging, emoticons (I could go on here), writing letters have become an archaic endeavor.    Hardly anyone writes letters anymore, I would venture to bet that children don’t pass notes in class, which is where this American classic begins.

unnamed (1)Love Letters details the lives of Melissa Gardner and Andrew, “Andy”, Makepeace Ladd III.  Melissa is an honest-to-a-fault, defiant, possibly bratty, young girl from money.  Andy is a nice lad from a good, stable family with high morals who just happens to like to write letters.   Over the course of 50 years Melissa and Andy honestly share their lives through letters, notes and announcement cards.  They confide their hopes and regrets, victories and losses.  Through their letters they share a life that is intimate and separate from the lives they lead with their families.  And through all the disclosures they make over the years, they never share the one fact that binds them together – they love each other.  They are soul mates who never really get the opportunity to share in life what they express in the pages of correspondence they write.

Written by A. R. Gurney, Love Letters was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It first opened at the New York Public Library in 1988.  Following a successful seven month run off-Broadway at the Promenade Theatre, Love Letters premiered at the Edison Theatre on October 31, 1989 where it ran for 96 performances.  Since its initial run on Broadway, A. R. Gurney’s play has seen many incarnations including a December 2007 benefit performance starring Elizabeth Taylor and James Earl Jones, which raised money for Taylor’s AIDS foundation.

Love Letters has returned to Broadway opening September 18 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Void of set and using epistolary form, the actors sit side by side as they recant Melissa and Andy’s complex relationship.  The play is a favored among busy actors as it doesn’t require a lot of time for preparation and the lines don’t need to be memorized. As in past incarnations of the show, there is a rotating cast of stars. So far Hollywood legends Carol Burnett and Mia Farrow have played the role of Melissa opposite Brian Dennehy as Andy.  Currently Alan Alda and Candice Bergen will take the stage for 35 performances ending their run on December 18, followed by Stacey Keach and Diana Rigg for 25 performances.  Love Letters ends its latest run the day after Valentine’s Day with Martin Sheen and Anjelica Houston taking on the roles of Andy and Melissa in show’s final 43 performances.

L letters Carol RoseggI was fortunate to witness Carol Burnett and Brian Dennehy last week.  I was totally enthralled.  The highs, lows and ultimate heartbreak of Melissa and Andy’s story were recited so passionately by Burnett and Dennehy that it engulfed the stage like tight embrace.  By the end of the play I was driven to tears.   The beauty of Broadway is a show is just like the moon, it reincarnates itself every night.  The audience is guaranteed to see a performance that is different from the night before, slight changes in gestures or cadence happens as the actors dive deeper into their characters. What makes Love Letters so special is this promise will be delivered to the audience double fold as the show rotates the cast.  Love Letters is a stripped down production that gets straight to the heart of amore and unrequited affection, feelings that we have all experienced a time, or two, in our lives.  It’s a brilliant show and a must see.  Just be sure you bring some Kleenex…you might need it.

 

Photos: Carol Rosegg, AKA NYC

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Sejong Soloists Hits Two High Notes with One Event

This year Sejong Soloists had two very important milestones to celebrate, 2014 marked their 20th anniversary and the 70th birthday for artistic director Hyo Kang.  On October 28, Sejong Soloists took the stage of Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center for their annual benefit concert. Emmy award-winning journalist Paula Zahn returned for her 12th season as host for the event and joined the string orchestra on stage playing cello as they performed, “Serenade Humoristique a l’ espangnole.”

The Sejong Soloists is the brainchild of Kang conceiving the idea of a conductor-less string orchestra.  In 1994, Kang invited 11 young, gifted musicians from across the globe, all of whom were attending Julliard School, in order to develop and mentor the newly formed ensemble.  Kang himself was a violin faculty member at Julliard at the time and through his mentorship, the young string players and many others, who have taken part in the ensemble during the past two decades, have been able to forge relationships with composers, become rising stars themselves and have entertained hundreds with their sublime musicality and bowing showmanship.

During the gala concert Sejong Soloists performed works from Bach, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, as well as J. Hyun, Carlos Franzetti, Hal Leonard and Pablo de Sarasate. On stage Sejong Soloists were joined by violin virtuosos Gil Shaham, Adele Anthony, Yura Lee, David Chan, Catherine Cho and Chee-Yun to perform various solos throughout the concert, each adding another wonderful layer of depth and fullness to the overall performance.   Those who were in attendance witnessed a spectacular that was as stunning to the eyes as it was to the ears.  The physicality of the performers truly demonstrated the passion that was coming through their instruments.  If this was an Olympic competition, Sejong Soloists would receive nothing but 10s across the board.  Technically they exhibited a tonality that was rich with various levels of sound.  It was amazing to hear how the sound completely filled the stage and the hall itself.  At no point did the music seem sparse; it flowed from the stage in waves and felt larger than the ensemble that had gathered on stage.  The achievement of Sejong Soloists’ big sound can only be attributed to the guidance of Hang as well as their enormous talent.  This string orchestra is certainly one of the most enjoyable musical experiences I’ve had in a while.

Sejong Soloists is a 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization.  The annual gala concert provides an opportunity for lovers and neophytes of classical music to experience the next luminaries of this genre as well as to honor the tireless effort of those who assist in growing this exceptional artistic organization.   To learn more about Sejong Soloists or to make a donation, please visit, http://www.sejongsoloists.org/.

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Jazz Standard Brings the Heat to Fall with the Terence Blanchard Quintet

Nothing can warm up a cool autumn night in NYC like a plate of barbeque, a glass of wine and the sound of live jazz.  With Jazz Standard, you’re guaranteed a night of good food and good music.  Located at 116 East 27th Street, Jazz Standard is one the nation’s premier jazz clubs.  Each month they offer an array of legendary and new talent in an intimate candlelit setting.   This month they started off with the Terence Blanchard Quintet.  In my book Blanchard’s music is the secret ingredient that takes Spike Lee’s films to another level.  Blanchard’s horn can also be heard in the 2001 movie Original Sin.

TBQ4From October 1-5 the Terence Blanchard Quintet enraptured patrons of Jazz Standard with selections off his latest album Magnetic  as well as other selections composed by members of the quintet and other pieces from past albums.  The quintet is comprised of virtuoso Blanchard on the trumpet, veteran Brice Winston on saxophone and upcoming stars Joshua Crumbly on bass, Fabian Almazan on piano and Justin Brown on drums. I was privileged to be in the audience for Blanchard’s last two sets on Sunday.  Both sets were as electrifying as the name of Blanchard’s latest album starting off with an energetic, toe tapping piece, then following up with a more down tempo, melodic number and ending the set on a beautiful, robust note (pun intended).

TBQ3Along with the Terence Blanchard Quintet, Jazz Standard’s features for October include Steve Wilson Quintet, James Carter’s “Django Unchained,” and Edmar Castaneda World Ensemble.  Every Monday belongs to the music of Charles Mingus.  Billed “Mingus Monday,” the regular series presents the genius innovations that made Charles Mingus one of jazz most prolific bassists and composers.  It doesn’t matter whether your jazz exposure has been Kenny G or if you’re lifetime member to WBGO, you’ll be thoroughly entertained at Jazz Standard.  The mix of artists proves why jazz is one of the last true art forms to come out of America and why this music must be preserved and continued for future generations.

To learn more about Jazz Standard, click www.jazzstandard.com.

To learn more about the Terence Blanchard Quintet and view more photos and purchase music, click http://www.terenceblanchard.com/, https://www.facebook.com/TerenceBlanchardJazz .

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Walter Anderson’s Almost Home Is on Parade at the Acorn Theatre

If someone were to ask me the proverbial question, “Can you go home again?”  I would kindly reply, “Why yes.” But the real questions are home the same once you get there and are you the same person that left?  These themes are skillfully explored in Walter Anderson’s Almost Home, currently playing at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row, located at 410 42nd Street.

3041Almost Home centers on Johnny Barnett, played by Jonny Orsini, a young marine returning home from Vietnam to his parents’ Bronx apartment.  No longer the good kid with a street edge, Jonny has trouble with coming to terms with events that happened in combat and his participation in it.  It is a parallel journey that has plagued his troubled, alcoholic father who served in World War II.  Uncertain about his future, Johnny has three roads he could take.  The first, accept the Marines offer to become a drill instructor.  The second is to go to college in California and the third is to become an internal affairs cop, an offer presented to him by the local police captain who wants to use Johnny’s hero status to his advantage. But before Johnny can  walk down the path of his destiny, he must first grapple with new and old demons that are creating roadblocks, namely his guilt over his best friend’s death in Vietnam, his poor relationship with his father and the police captain who has had his family under his thumb for years.  In the end Johnny makes peace with who he is and is free, in more ways than one, to choose the path he wants.

2896Playwright Walter Anderson crafts a sensitive tale about a boy coming into his manhood and creates the perfect balance of grace and the harsh realities of war and street life. With its autobiographical roots, Almost Home also is a coming home of sorts for Anderson.  Before becoming the editor of Parade Magazine for 20 years and the Chairman and CEO of Parade Publications, Anderson, a high school dropout, enlisted in the Marines attaining the rank of sergeant and serving in Vietnam.  During his time in the Marines, Anderson earned his GED.  Like Johnny, Anderson attended college after his discharge from the Marines attending Westchester Community College and Mercy College.

3045The cast of Almost Home bring you to the edge of your seat.  The audience becomes immediately enthralled with the complicated relationships between Johnny and his family and Captain Nick Pappas.  Neighbor Luisa Jones, Johnny’s elementary teacher, is a constant ray of hope that circles a cloud steeped in various shades of gray.  She, along with his mother, reminds Johnny that he is not limited by his circumstances or his past.  Johnny Barnett is played by Jonny Orsini.  I became familiar with Orsini when he appeared opposite Nathan Lane in The Nance.  I thought he was spectacular in that production and in Almost Home he is equally impressive.  James McCaffrey is masterful as the manipulative Nick Pappas.  His performance made me want to scream, “Where’s Serpico when you need him!”  Karen Ziemba and Joe Lisi bring heart and soul to the roles of Harry and Grace Barnett, and Brenda Pressley shimmers as the sassy teacher with a heart of gold.

3046The tension presented in Almost Home ends on an anticlimactic note, but the subtle ending is more realistic than some puffed out, melodramatic climax. It leaves the audience circling with questions about the future of Jonny and his family and a desire to want to see more, and leaving an audience salivating for more is never a bad thing.  If this show was part of the Bronx Bombers’ roster I would venture to say the boys in pinstripes would have no more worries.  Almost Home knocks it out of the theater. Anderson’s play is definitely a winner.

Photos: Carol Rosegg

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9/11 Reflected Through Color – The Art of Ken Kaminski

One of my favorite childhood fables was the story of Henny Penny.  What always stuck with me was the repeated use of the phrase, “The sky is falling.”  It was the first time I was ever confronted with a tale that dealt with hysteria.  How could I had known that one day I would feel driven to scream those exact words, but when I saw the twin towers ablaze and the mayhem that was unfolding in real time as we helplessly watch on TV,  I felt like that manic chicken wrought with panic and fear.  September 11, 2001 is a mental scar I’ll always carry with me.

20140825_184212As intense as the memories are of that day, I can scarcely remember any color with the exception being the perfect blue sky that offered the delusion that nothing that terrible could befall us.  What I remember most are the feelings that coursed through me at rates so fast I could barely record them, terror firmly placing a grip around my neck, anxiety tapping Morse code up and down my arms, disorientation mushrooming in my brain and grief taking possession of my heart.  I returned home from my job, where we had to evacuate because of a bomb threat, turned on my TV and laid down on my bed to hear the sounds of faint whistles from dying firemen.  I felt absolutely defeated.

The tragedy of 9/11 left this country reeling and sent us all on our own journeys as we tried to reconcile what happened.   Ken Kaminski’s journey took him to the canvas creating a series of work that spans well over a decade. Using the template of abstract expressionists like Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Emerson Woefler, Kaminski has attempted to record the events and emotions of that day as well as the recovery period that continues to shape us. His efforts also allow those who are too young to remember 9/11 the ability to witness the emotion of that day.

20140825_183455FAMERS I am here to report that his endeavors are wildly successful.  I had the pleasure of viewing a few of Kaminski’s 9/11 paintings at the Edward Williams Gallery, located at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Hackensack campus. The exhibit includes eight selected works that brilliantly convey the events of that day brightly expressed in various hues. The exhibit begins with Blue Sky Day – triptych.  This three panel painting brings you face to face with speed of these flying bombs and the majestic sky that it corrupted. With each panel the viewer sees the countdown of the planes getting closer and closer until it hits making its bloody and destructive impact.

20140825_183549911 The Moment It Happened is an eerie mix of color.  The space surrounding The World Center no longer is colored in blue like the atmosphere painted in Blue Sky Day, instead the blue is muddled with streaks of different colors showing the chaos that followed the impact of the first plane, represented in an explosion of oranges and reds bursting from the side of the tower.  Streams of black cover one of the towers like a foreshadowing of despair to come.

20140825_183614Blindsided shows the line of fire going straight into one of the towers then blasting out of the other side.  Crippled from the blow, the tower bends and the pain is obvious.   All that is missing is the scream, but if you remember the sound of the planes hitting the towers, then this painting will ensure that the awful roar of the plane echoes in your ears.  Blindsided is an acute observation of a drive-by.

20140825_183653Twins! is a stoic, almost haunting, vision of The World Trade Center towers before 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001.  They were proud and victorious, a symbol of might and power.  They represented everything that was great about The Big Apple.  In Kaminski’s painting they appeared alive and vibrant again instead of frozen as they are in photographs.  The yellow background also contributes to the energy of the piece.  It makes you long for the nostalgia of what used to be.  If this painting were a song, it would be called The Way We Were.

20140825_183844Wounded Towers is a kaleidoscope of disorder.  The colors vividly capture the confusion permeating the area as people scrambled for safety and the bent, smoldering towers desperately tried to remain the symbols of glory that they once were, a last valiant effort before they ultimately disintegrated into dust.

20140825_183922Collapse is engulfed in a blending of hues that bring chills to the spine.  The voices of those who were lost don’t just whisper, they shriek.  It shows the true potential of visual art.  There are no words necessary, this painting is one of the most telling portraits of pain and suffering that I’ve ever saw.  If someone wanted to understand the mood of the country when the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, all they would have to do is view this painting.

20140825_184108Considering this year will mark the 13th anniversary of 9/11, I believe Kaminski’s exhibit couldn’t visit the New York metropolitan area at a better time.  It allows another way for us to remember and venerate a day that will forever be a part of our history.  Kaminski’s work carries with it a raw, emotional ambiance.  It pulls you in.   No matter how hard the visuals may be to look at, Kaminski’s work burst past your pupils and forces you to deal with whatever memories or residual feelings you may have buried.   For as much as Kaminski’s work is steeped in tragedy, it is also immersed in the resilience of the city of New York and its people.  Yes, the sky did fall, but we didn’t get mired in the pain.   We stood atop the ashes; we rebuilt and honored those we lost.   The 9/11 paintings are not only powerful and healing; they are a testament that when an artist creates from his or her soul the work that is generated is timeless.

 

To learn more about Ken Kaminski and view more of his work check out, http://www.kenkaminski.com/.  Kaminski’s 9/11 Paintings will be on display at the Edward Williams Gallery, located at 150 Kotte Place, Hackensack NJ, until 9/26/14.  Gallery hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

Photos and Video: F.A.M.E NYC Editor

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Top Five Reasons to Go See The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera is a Broadway staple.  It’s one of the productions that tourists come to New York City to see.  Last year it celebrated its 25th anniversary on Broadway making it the longest running show in the history of The Great White Way.  With grosses over $800 million, it’s the most financially successful theater production to date.  In May The Phantom of the Opera made history once again by adding the first Phantom of color, actor Norm Lewis.

The Phantom of the Opera began its epic run on Broadway in 1988 and after 26 years it still packs in the crowds.  One might think that after all this time this musical juggernaut might have lost its steam – what with all the new productions dealing with more modern issues – but there is a reason why classics never die.  If you haven’t seen The Phantom of the Opera, I’m here to tell you that you should and I have five good reasons to back me up.

4.2018005. Unrequited Love

The Phantom of the Opera intertwines this theme into the beauty and the beast subplot.  The Phantom in all his grotesque glory loves Christine Daaé, a beautiful young soprano.  So much so that he will kill to ensure her success at the French opera house.  She is his muse and musically they do share a connection, but his disfigured face and criminal behavior prevents her from conceiving of the possibility of returning his love.  Another complication for The Phantom is the reemergence of Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, Christine’s childhood playmate and first love.  Everyone has their favorite fables about unrequited love.  Wuthering HeightsGone With the WindThe Phantom of the Opera definitely ranks up there with the greatest love stories told on stage or screen.

5.2018144. Norm Lewis

There is a new Phantom in town and his name is Norm Lewis.  Stepping into a role as iconic as the Phantom can be quite the undertaking, 25 years and several other Phantoms before you, and every die-hard Phantom fan has their favorite.  But Lewis holds true to magic and sinister nature of the Phantoms before him.  In fact, he adds another dimension to the story of a brilliant man forced to hide in the shadows of an opera house because of the way he looks and is driven mad by the isolation and rejection.

4.2018013.  Sierra Boggess

Sierra Boggess has been playing the role of Christine Daaé in various productions since 2006.  She first played the role in a production of The Phantom of the Opera in Las Vegas.  She played Christine in the sequel to Phantom, Love Never Dies.  On Broadway, she reprised the role in 2013 for a six-week engagement. In March, it was announced that she would return along with Norm Lewis.  As soon as Boggess utters the first note you can tell how familiar she is with the role.  Her voice fills the Majestic Theatre with a power and tenderness that can be felt from the orchestra to the mezzanine.  If you are not a fan of opera, Boggess will make you one or at the very least you will have a greater appreciation for the craft.

3.2017992.  Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart

The music of The Phantom of the Opera was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics written by Charles Hart and additions from Richard Stilgoe, who also wrote the book with Webber.  The music and lyrics are one of the reasons why The Phantom of the Opera is the most successful theater productions on Broadway and around the world.  Just hearing the entrancing number “The Music of the Night” is enough to fill seats or the beautiful exchange between Raoul and Christine in “All I Ask of You”; the music and lyrics captivates the audience from beginning to end and gloriously illuminates the genius of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

3.2018101.  It’s an authentic theater experience

From the lavish sets and costumes, the music and lyrics, to the performers, The Phantom of the Opera harkens back to a time when going to the theater was a complete transformation into another world and the audience felt lucky to be a part of it because it was happening live in front of them.  The pageantry and opulence of The Phantom of the Opera holds a mirror to the mediocre productions that somehow get backing and land on Broadway and says, “Tisk…tisk…tisk.  This is how you create theater.”  Simply put, they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore and no matter your age or generation quality is quality.  And the fuel that runs The Phantom of the Opera is excellence.

Photos by Matthew Murphy