Webber revue is good and loud
By William K. Gale

It is a little hard to tell just who or what is the star of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Music of the Night, a mouthful of a revue now at the Providence Performing Arts Center.

Clearly a big winner is the veteran interpreter of Lloyd Webber's music, Colm Wilkinson, a man with a wonderful Irish tenor voice and an ability to find all of the meaning of a song.

His version of The Music of the Night from The Phantom of the Opera is spine-tingling, easily the best of all of the phantoms I've heard.

And then there is Lloyd Webber's music itself. This show sung and danced before an on-stage orchestra of about 27 musicians runs through the great hits. Cats, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar are there along with his lesser known but strong shows Aspects of Love and Song & Dance and, of course Phantom, and Lloyd Webber's newest Sunset Blvd.

It's all wonderful if you love Lloyd Webber's music. If you are as I am, in the I-like-some-of-it camp, then the show is so-so.

But then there is a sound system brought by in the show, a sound system that just about takes over, blasting staid, old PPAC away at levels usually reserved for arena rock shows. The sound Tuesday night created such a raucous ruckus that even the good things of Lloyd Webber were sometimes overwhelmed.

So call Andrew Lloyd Webber's Music of the Night a mixed bag. When it's good, it is very, very good. And when it's not, well, it is at least loud.

Some of the problems with this revue come from its attitude. Directed by Broadway veteran Scott Ellis, the show is often more Las Vegas than Broadway. The plaintive Don't Cry For Me Argentina from Evita became a brash anthem here, slugged out by a clearly talented singer Janet Metz, who seems to have been over-directed.

The same thing happens to Macavity from Cats. Originally, a lyrical delight with words the poet T.S. Eliot wrote for his grandchildren. It loses its lyrical fun for being pushed too hard.

On the plus side there is fine singing and power-driving dancing. Patricia Ben Peterson is affecting on I Don't Know How To Love Him from Superstar and lends a bittersweet tone to As If We Never Said Goodbye from Sunset Blvd.

The backup singers and dancers are of Broadway quality even as they push for a Vegas-y air to the show.

And then there is Wilkinson. Long associated with Lloyd Webber, he was the first to sing the Phantom's role at a tryout in England but did not become the original Phantom in London. He did play the role for more than four years in Toronto. And he originated the role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables (not a Lloyd Webber work, by the way).

In this show he proves himself, again, to be a singer with all the technical necessities. His elocution is world class, his tenor chilling, if a little darker than it was when Les Miserables opened in New York. Most of all Wilkinson understands the meaning of a song and can transmit that to an audience better than anyone around in the Broadway theater today.

His Music of the Night displayed without any cloying overtones the longing and the distress of a very human Phantom. His version of Gethsemane from Superstar was a super star at his best.

So whether to see Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Music of the Night depends on your love of his music, your tolerance for Vegas-loud and your desire to see one of the best singers ever to grace a legitimate stage.

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