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'Phantom' Version That Offers Reality

July 18, 1993|EMILY ADAMS

Erik is a lonely guy.

Although well past adolescence, he's never had a date and has lived alone since the early death of his mother. Erik is well-built, a talented singer and an opera buff. He may be short on humor, but he is very sincere. Also, he collects interesting masks.

Would you date this man? Would you set him up with your sister or cousin?

Better not, because Erik's home is a warren of secret rooms and passageways under the Paris Opera House, where he has existed in our imaginations, and in stage adaptations, since the book "Phantom" was first published by Gaston Leroux in 1911.

Maybe you've seen Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, "Phantom of the Opera," or one of three film versions, the 1925 movie with Lon Chaney, for instance. And maybe you think you know this story.

But the Whittier-La Mirada Musical Theatre Assn. will tell you that you don't know Phantom until you've seen their "Phantom." This version, by Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit, was first presented in January, 1991, at Houston's Theatre Under the Stars and includes many elements left out of both film and musical. As the folks at Whittier-La Mirada like to put it, it's more "story" than you get with other versions.

First of all, the Phantom's real name is Erik. And that incredible facial deformity that he hides behind the mask? That's a birth defect--not an industrial accident as Brian DePalma's rock musical, "The Phantom of the Paradise," (1974) would have you believe. He is a human--an incredibly malformed human--who craves beauty.

Including both song and spoken word, "Phantom" also reveals the first meeting between Erik and Christine Dae, the beautiful rising opera star whom Erik takes on as protegee and love interest. The audience will see Erik fall in love with his music student, fall for her beautiful voice, and watch her learn to accept this strange teacher.

Considering our fascination with the truly evil (from reality TV to "The Silence of the Lambs,") it makes sense that this most recent adaptation of Phantom probes Erik's emotional state as he goes hurtling toward the edge, beyond which insanity lies.

"Phantom" will appear through Aug. 1 at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd. Tickets are $23 and $25. Information: (310) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310.

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