Last Friday night I had the privilege of attending the season-opening of Phantom at The Westchester Broadway Theatre. That’s Phantom, the book by Arthur Kopit, and music and lyrics by Maury Yeston. Not The Phantom of The Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This is a completely different musical, from the same source material as that Phantom, a French novel by Gaston Laroux called Le Fantom de l’Opera, (film buffs may also remember the 1925 film starring Bela Lugosi).
The story is the one you know; a disfigured man living in the bowels of the Paris Opera House becomes obsessed with a young singer—her voice is untrained and her gives her lessons in the hopes of making her a star. His plan is thwarted by the new Opera’s manager and his tenacious wife. Like in a true opera, this one is a tragedy, but our evening was anything but.
Westchester Broadway Theatre is so much more than just a theater. Dinner service at the theater begins at 6:00 p.m. We were seated promptly and even though we were seeing Phantom, I ordered the Sweeny Todd cocktail from their list of musical-inspired concoctions. (I was not disappointed). WBT offers an extensive dinner menu, and here, I stuck to the theme and ordered the “Chicken Christine.” I was a little worried that I might find myself as at an all-inclusive resort—needing to order one of every entrée just to feel full—but this was not the case. Dinner consisted of rolls, a salad, two good-sized pieces of chicken, potatoes au gratin (I could have eaten a bucketful of), vegetables, dessert and coffee. We had plenty of time to enjoy our coffee and chat before the show began at 8:00 p.m.
A theater of this size definitely has its advantages. Seating is three-quarter around a thrust-stage, so there are no bad seats. All of the acting onstage is performed in every direction, so you never end up watching someone’s back while they deliver a monologue. The costumes in this production were beautiful, and when you’re this close, you can really get a good look at the workmanship that went into them.
And mind you, although this theater is in our backyard, it is an Equity theater—the performers are the real deal. The cast of Phantom was terrific—I especially enjoyed WBT mainstay Sandy Rosenberg as the scheming Carlotta, and I could have listened to Kayleen Seidl as Christine sing all night—her voice is sublime. Matthew Billman was pitch-perfect as the title character, and James Van Treuren was heartbreaking as Carriere.
All in all, this was a terrific night of dinner theater, and I was thrilled to “discover” this little gem so close to home. I love attending the theater, but Broadway tickets are so expensive now, I don’t know how anyone affords it. This season’s production of A Christmas Carol, The Musical opens on November 29, and I encourage you to skip the exorbitant ticket prices and crazy traffic of Manhattan and see for yourself why this is WBT’s 207th production.