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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, May 18, 2000

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Laurence Paxton is the phantom and Melissa Short is
Christine in the Diamond Head Theatre production
of "Phantom."


Diamond Head Theatre stages
an in-depth look at the masked
man and his obsession in 'Phantom'

By Tim Ryan


WHEN you get right down to it, the Phantom isn't such a bad guy. He falls in love at first sight and first sound, then dedicates his life to making the woman of his fantasy, Christine Daae, just about the best singer she can be.

It's true that the Phantom is a tad obsessive, and he does have that anger-management problem, but he's caught in a big-time tragic tale and makes a fatal mistake by falling desperately in love.

"Phantom," which opens tomorrow at Diamond Head Theatre, is a far more thorough and thoughtful version of the classic novel turned Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. The production stars Laurence Paxton and Melissa Short.

"If you're a 'Phantom' freak, this version fills in all those little gaps that the Andrew Lloyd Webber production doesn't," said Paxton. "This gothic story is more detailed and provides answers to the story line.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
The cast in a scene from the play.

"The audience learns why the Phantom is who he is, why he does what he does, why he's in the Paris Opera House, where Christine comes from."

The show opens in the late afternoon on the Avenue de l'Opera in Paris, somewhere around the turn of the century. Christine, a seller of songs, is singing "Melodie de Paris."

As she sings, she hands sheet music to people nearby. Among those attracted by her voice and beauty is the roguishly handsome Count de Chandon, who tells her that her voice may be lovely but, for opera, she will need training.

He offers her his card. If she shows this to opera house manager Gerard Carriere, she'll receive lessons. It's like a dream come true.

Paxton has appeared in "Phantom of the Opera" productions before, but not as the masked man.

"Both musicals are really hard, but this one is extremely difficult because there's so much more story to tell, more dialogue and changes in character," he said. "This Phantom has many more facets to his personality. He deals with a lot of different characters, not just the object of his love, Christine."

The musical, written by Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston, the award-winning team who authored "Grand Hotel" and "Titanic," is based on Gaston Leroux's original novel "The Phantom of the Opera."

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Laurence Paxton in a scene from the Diamond
Head Theatre production of "Phantom."

"The audience sees a much more sensitive and sympathetic Phantom character than in the Webber version," Paxton said.

Paxton sings some 10 songs which have extremely high and low ranges. In addition, this is also a "very physical production" and Paxton remains on stage throughout the show.

That means the solidly built Paxton does a lot of running around, lifting Short's character, Christine, and even swinging from ropes. To prepare, Paxton has been getting more sleep, enduring daily 90-minute aerobic and weightlifting workouts, and 30 minutes of vocalizing.

One of the most demanding scenes of the musical is a chase scene that involves "ropes and guns and knives and a lot of melodrama," said Paxton who is becoming Hawaii's Maury Yeston expert, also having done "Grand Hotel."

"I love his music," Paxton said. "He has the melodic gift of a Webber and the harmonic genius of a Sondheim."

On Stage

Bullet What: "Phantom" starring Laurence Paxton and Melissa Short
Bullet When: Opens tomorrow, running 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through June 4
Bullet Where: Diamond Head Theatre
Bullet Tickets: $10 to $40
Bullet Call: 734-0274

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