I had never seen PHANTOM live before, but have had heavy exposure. I knew every word to the cast recording, had seen the movie with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum, and had seen the filmed live version of the London 25th anniversary (w/Sierra Boggess who is Christine on Broadway now).
Seeing it live was an experience unlike any other PHANTOM experience I have had. From the opening chords of the overture through curtain call I was engaged in the magic that was happening on stage, proving how this show survived 25 years on Broadway.
First, I need to start with the performances (because that's the first thing I pay attention to at any show). Sierra Boggess IS Christine. While I've heard her sing Christine before, seeing her play the role was amazing. I wish Tony Awards were given out for replacements still because less than a week into her run with the show, she was flawless. Hugh Panaro as the Phantom was unique. Vocally he sounded phenomenal and he acted the part extremely well, but it was a very different Phantom than I have ever been exposed to. It was not the dark, ominous, deep (vocally) Phantom, but rather a more insecure, almost clown-like (in the classical sense) representation of the Phantom. It was by no means bad, it was just unexpected.
In terms of the supporting roles, I didn't love Kyle Barisch's Raoul. Again, it was vocally flawless (as was everything in this production), but it didn't have that certain spark that I feel the character needs. Based on his representation (SPOILER ALERT) I don't get why Christine chose him over the Phantom. Ellen Harvey (who I have seen in 3 different shows this year, check out my rave for her in INTO THE WOODS here) was phenomenal as Madame Giry. She was in a role in which she could shine as an actress. She fits exactly what Giry needs to be, a strong actress who can play strict well with a gorgeous voice. And lastly, Kara Klein, who plays Meg, was exactly what I always find Meg to be, bland, boring, and annoying. Except that's not the actress' fault, it's just how the character is written.
Now, technically this show is gorgeous. I won't give much away, but the sets and costumes were phenomenal, its hard to think they've looked this good for 25 years. Also, the lighting was great, with some really good aesthetic choices, but not at all over the top.
After seeing this performance, I understand how it has lasted so long and why it is one of the world's favorite musicals, and I look forward to seeing the show again at its 50th anniversary performance.
Here's a video of Sierra singing her opening aria, "Think of Me."