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'Phantom' haunts audiences yet again

Audience reception allays fears about summer attendance

 by Grayson Steinberg  published on Saturday, July 2, 2005

The Phantom of the Opera was performed at Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium from June 8 to July 3.  The cast performed to large audiences despite its summer schedule./issues/arts/693344
Joan Marcus / ASU Public Events
The Phantom of the Opera was performed at Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium from June 8 to July 3. The cast performed to large audiences despite its summer schedule.
 

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"The Phantom of the Opera" once again haunted and delighted the minds of audiences at ASU's Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium this month.

The show completed a four-week run Sunday, with 92 to 95 percent of seats filled for the play's duration, said David Harrison, director of communications for ASU Public Events.

The Phantom returned to Gammage after several years of negotiations. Since its third engagement in 2000, it had been the "most requested show ever by Gammage audiences."

Harrison said the producers of the national tour worried that the show wouldn't be successful during the Arizona summer with the prospects of hot weather and lots of people on vacation. ASU managed to convince them that audiences would be overjoyed to see the musical during the summer, he said.

"We knew we had a successful engagement because people were clammering to buy tickets and all the way through the sales process leading up to the engagement, sales were very strong...The 'Phantom' producers were absolutely amazed," he said.

Strong audience interest outweighed concerns that summertime conditions would reduce the potential number of attendees, said Cassidy Briggs, company manager for the production's national tour.

She said audiences were so enthusiastic, they cheered before performances even started.

"It's the best audience I've seen for this show ever," Briggs said. "They leap to their feet as soon as the lights go down."

Harrison said the strong audience reception was based on familiar songs, its love story and stage wizardry. A crashing chandelier and the realistic effect of the Phantom's boat traveling across the stage contributed to enthusiasm about the performances, even after people have seen the show more than once.

"There's no other Broadway show that has ever captured the spirit and imagination of audiences the way Phantom has," Harrison said.

Tammy Drappo, 43, of Phoenix, said the vocal prowess of the show's performers and the special effects made for a very memorable experience, especially because it was the first Broadway show she had seen with her four children.

"Now we want to go back and see more," she said. "So we'll have to save some more money so we can see some other shows."

Another part of the appeal is the element of live theater, Harrison said, adding that nothing could match the "transference of energy from [the actor] to the audience." In combination with the live orchestra and the subtle differences in acting performances between shows, these aspects made each one distinct.

"It will turn on many, many new audience members to the experience of live theater. People will come to 'Phantom' and have a blast, [then] come back and try something else," he said.

The performance of "The Phantom of the Opera" at Gammage Auditorium could also help raise the public image of ASU, Harrison said. The engagement brought between 150,000 and 175,000 visitors to ASU during its run, Harrison estimated. Many of these people were on campus for the first time, which Harrison said would help establish recognition of ASU as "a lively place," a "cultural center," and "a hub for activity in this community. It could also help recruit prospective students or faculty impressed by the efforts of the University and wishing to know more about it, he said.

"The Phantom of the Opera" ran from June 8 to July 3. The show was first performed at Gammage Auditorium in 1994 as the Southwest Regional Premiere. This nine-and-a-half-week run sold out and was the auditorium's longest-running show ever. Subsequent engagements occurred in 1995 and 2000.


Reach the reporter at grayson.steinberg@asu.edu.



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