Out & About
A Kinder, Gentler Phantom
The (lesser-known) saga of the famous opera fan
By Marisa LaScala
Westchester Broadway Theatre
A shadowy figure, based on a character by French novelist Gaston Leroux, hides from a dark past beneath the Paris Opera House. His face is deformed; he wears a mask. A young singer catches his fancy and he trains her to become the opera’s starring diva, crossing the powerful establishment. Nasty things start to happen, especially to the theater’s lighting fixtures.
Sound familiar? Maybe like a certain Broadway mega-blockbuster produced by theater heavyweight Andrew Lloyd Webber? Surprise! It’s not: It’s Phantom, by Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston (the pair behind the award-winning musical Nine), currently being performed at the Westchester Broadway Theatre. Kopit and Yeston actually started work on their musical version of the novel before Lloyd Webber; but when he beat them to the stage in London, their version — like the Phantom himself — fell into obscurity. It was later revived by the Theatre Under the Stars in Texas, and has found great success in regional theater ever since. In 1991, when the WBT first staged the musical, it ran for almost a year (the longest-running show in their history) and attracted 120,000 audience members eager to see the Phantom story told by someone who wasn’t responsible for Cats.
The smaller production scale is a great fit for the Kopit/Yeston Phantom because their musical is all-around more of an understated affair, which is as much a stylistic choice as it is a necessity. Don’t expect the big, booming solos and showy effects. Yeston’s music is more delicate, sung with perfect fragile vulnerability by leads Aaron Ramey (the Phantom) and Kate Rockwell (Christine). The Phantom himself is more human than villain, more haunted than specter. He even gets to crack a few jokes: After hearing the opera’s star warming up her voice, he responds with a dry, “Yeesh, this place really is haunted.”
That’s not to say that there isn’t any of Broadway’s razzle-dazzle in Phantom. There are some show-stopping moments beyond the famous crashing of the chandelier. With rotating sets, a raised catwalk, and a fog-covered levitating chamber, the production has more tricks up its sleeve than its title character. Through Feb. 9. Call for schedule and ticket information. 1 Broadway Plaza, Elmsford. 914-592-2222 or www.broadwaytheatre.com
Rocky romance: Ramey and Rockwell share a tender moment during the WBT’s production of Phantom
Peekskill rocks, while Jake and Elwood belt the blues on stage and on screen
Arena rock roars back to life when the legendary band Styx takes over the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill. The group achieved huge success in the ’70s and ’80s with four consecutive multi-platinum albums; their radio staples include the power ballad “Lady” and the Top-10 single “Come Sail Away.” After a brief break up, the band regrouped in 1990. They’re back on tour with a slightly different lineup, but just as much raw rock energy as before. Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. $75-$110. 1008 Brown St., Peekskill. 914-739-2333 or www.paramountcenter.org
Magic in the air
Now in its 32nd year, the annual Miniature and Dollhouse Show has a touch of magic this time around. In keeping with the “Faery Tales and Tiny Treasures” theme, the exhibit showcases fairy houses and dolls, as well as a portrait doll of wise wizard Albus Dumbledore (of Harry Potter fame). Also on display is a model created for the Pirates of the Caribbean on Ice (an upcoming Disney extravaganza), as well as a beautiful collection of doll mansions, houses, gazebos, theaters, and puppets. Through Jan. 27. Tues.-Sun. 12-4 p.m. $6, $3 under 12. The Historical Society of Rockland County. 20 Zukor Rd., New City. 845-634-9629 or www.rocklandhistory.org
Are you a Blues Brothers fan? Enjoy the hilarious capers and smooth tunes of Jake and Elwood Blues in a two-part weekend special this month. On Jan. 25, the Bardavon Opera House screens The Blues Brothers, the classic John Belushi/Dan Aykroyd film that features cameos by the likes of Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles, and Cab Calloway. The following day, Westchester Community College hosts the Official Blues Brothers Revival, a live musical tribute that mixes the energetic spirit of the movie with the rich history of Chicago gospel, blues, and soul. Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. $5. Bardavon Opera House. 35 Market St., Poughkeepsie. 845-473-2072 or www.bardavon.org. Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. $20, $17 seniors & students, $12 under 13. Academic Arts Theatre, Westchester Community College. 75 Grasslands Rd., Valhalla. 914-606-6262.
Boys in blues: Tributes to the Blues Brothers swing into Poughkeepsie and Valhalla this month
Mini mansions and other tiny treasures lure visitors to Rockland’s annual Miniature and Dollhouse Show