Last Call For Art: Two Great Musicals, Expertly Done

Two of the season's best stage productions close this weekend, The Phantom of the Opera by Broadway Across America and The Producers at Masquerade Theatre. Make sure you see at least one of them.

First is Phantom. This is the Broadway touring company, of course. (The show arrived in Houston with twenty 40-foot semis in tow, hauling the production's considerable set pieces.) Christine Daaé, wonderfully sung by Trista Moldovan, is a young opera singer who is pushed into becoming a star by a shadowy figure called the Phantom, sung by Tim Martin Gleason. Daaé does what seems to be musically counterintuitive - the higher the note, the stronger she sings it. She is, in a word, glorious.

Harold Prince directs the cast, which is uniformly brilliant. And the set, complete with a chandelier that swings out over the audience and hundreds of candles that light up the Phantom's creepy home built in the basement of the opera house. Through August 2. The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby, 713-629-3700.

Next is The Producers.

Masquerade's sleek production prompted Houston Press contributor D. L. Groover to ask, "Might this be the best show Masquerade has ever done?"

Max, played by John Gremillion, is a crooked producer who joins up with Leo, played by Michael J. Ross, an equally ethics-challenged accountant. Together the two come up with a crazy plan to mount the worst musical ever. When the show closes, they'll tell investors their money is gone. They just won't mention that it's gone into their own pockets.

The sure-fire failure they produce? Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Eva and Adolf at Berchtesgaden, an ode to one of the most hated men in recent history. In true musical tradition, Springtime becomes an instant hit, leaving Max and Leo up to their necks in trouble.

Gremillion and Ross sing and dance their way out of the shadows of the fabulous actors that played Max and Leo (Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick on Broadway, Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder on screen). Making an audience forget the tour de force performances of Lane, Broderick, Mostel and Wilder is no easy trick, but Gremillion, Ross and company do just that. As Groover wrote in his review, "The whole shebang is yummy, start to finish." Through August 2. The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby,713-861-7045 .

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Olivia Flores Alvarez