“Phantom of the Opera,” that venerable old workhorse of Broadway, is spoofed with characteristic broadness and likability at Desert Star Playhouse, that venerable old workhorse of melodramatic theater.
The people in Desert Star Playhouse parodies live in a vaudevillian world of double-meanings and absurd conclusions. When someone says, “Are you choking?,” it is entirely possible for the other person to respond, “No, I’m serious,” and mean it.
Once you get used to the style, the shows tend to be a real hoot, and “Phantom” is more or less typical of them. The story is not altered much from that of the musical it parodies. The Paris Opera House is plagued by a Phantom (Jack Drayton), who grows fond of the ingenue Christine (Kerstin Anderson) and teaches her to sing. This enrages the diva Carlotta (Arika Schockmel) and attracts the attention of Christine’s childhood acquaintance Raoul (Paul Thomas Murphy).
Along for the ride are Madame Giry (Mary Parker Williams), a mysterious Persian (Scott Holman, understudied by Christopher Glade), Carlotta’s co-star Signor Sorelli (Spencer Ashby) and wealthy patron Poligny (Holly Braithwaite).
Jack Drayton is a rugged sort of fellow with a deep leading-man voice that lends itself well to the Phantom. As the object of his obsession, Kerstin Anderson has the requisite strong singing voice, but is unafraid to look ridiculous, which Christine is often called on to do. Spencer Ashby, always a treat, gives the outrageous Sorelli a spark, and Arika Schockmel very humorously deviates from the script at every opportunity.
Perhaps the most consistently funny character is a supporting one, the ridiculously old Madame Giry, played by a much younger Mary Parker Williams. The character works because she’s recognizable, but slightly exaggerated from reality.
It’s an unfortunate bit of casting that the female Holly Braithwaite is playing the male Monsieur Poligny. This allows the characters to make jokes every five or six seconds about how Poligny looks like a woman, but it has little value beyond that. Braithwaite, perhaps self-conscious about being miscast, overplays the role to the extreme, none of it grounded in reality — which, it should be remembered, is the essence of comedy.
The second half of the show has more energy and wit than the first half does, and it’s all followed by an amusing olio spotlighting high school proms and the music associated with them.
Should you go? Desert Star regulars will find this offering up to par, and first-timers should be amused by the proceedings.