Goodbye, “Phantom Las Vegas,” you will be missed but not forgotten.
When “Phantom” opened at the Venetian in 2006, it seemed like a daunting challenge to maintain the show’s artistic integrity while at the same time keeping it fast-paced enough for the typical Las Vegas tourist to enjoy. The vision, headed by Scott Zeiger, the President of Base Entertainment, was to “Super-Size” the musical in ways that had never been done anywhere else in the world. The show was set at 95 minutes with no intermission. “Phantom Las Vegas” contained all the original songs and was directed by the show’s original Broadway director, Hal Prince, and was overseen by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
One of the stars of this massive production was a $5 million chandelier that took more than half-a-year to build. The crew named her “Maria,” and she weighed more than 2,000 pounds and had almost 30,000 crystals as she hung high and dropped before audience after audience. In addition to Maria, the theater was filled with life-sized, front-of-house mannequins filling the opera boxes to allow the audience a feeling of being a part of the Opera Garnier in Paris. Throughout “Phantom,” there were spectacular effects such as fireworks or scenes where the stage disappears to fog. They are an essential part of turning this musical into a more exhilarating experience for audiences.
One of the main reasons “Phantom” has had a profound effect on audiences throughout the years is the story. Delicate and deeply poignant, we watch the Phantom personify the ugliness we all feel when rejected by someone we can never have, and we see grace and redemption from the characters when they are most filled with despair. Although “Phantom Las Vegas” was being presented on a grand scale, the deep emotional moments still seemed to have the biggest impact on audiences, even amidst the fog and fireworks and the costumes and songs.
“Phantom Las Vegas” at The Venetian was a production unlike any other. The combination of all the elements of theater, special effects, chandelier and cast and crew was outstanding.
When the news that “Phantom the Las Vegas Spectacular” was having its last performance on September 2, 2012, I wanted to write a personal farewell. I worked on this show from 2007 to 2009, and during this time I was taught more than I ever knew about working in theater. My heartfelt appreciation goes out to everyone in front of the curtain and behind. This group took great pride in their work onstage and off, and gave audience members their blood, sweat and tears each night.
Losing a show like “Phantom” will leave a void on The Strip, and although there will be many more shows to come and go, nothing will ever take its place.