Desert Star's newest 'Phantom of the Opera: I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face' is hilarious

Published: Monday, Jan. 13 2014 5:10 p.m. MST

In the newest Desert Star production of "Phantom of the Opera: I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face," Dan Larrinaga is the Phantom, Liz Christensen is Christine, Spencer Ashby is Sorelli and Brooklyn Pulver Kohler is Madame Carlotta.

Megan Summers and Rolf Kay

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PHANTOM OF THE OPERA: I'VE GROWN ACCUSTOMED TO YOUR FACE; Desert Star Playhouse, 4861 S. State, Murray; directed by Scott Holman; produced by Michael Todd; through March 22; running time: 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission, and Broadway olios after; tickets at desertstar.biz.

MURRAY — Desert Star's latest parody of the "Phantom of the Melodrama" — er, "Opera," is a warm and amusing blend of comic bits from the Broadway musical, "Young Frankenstein," Bugs Bunny cartoons, an Elvis song and a variety of other familiar musical and showhouse hits.

There seem to be no real rules for what's included except that it be funny.

The basic story of an opera ghost obsessed with an up-and-coming star is set on its head, with O.G. stalking Christine and sending her red letters that talk (and get vocally squished as they're folded or turned upside down).

The blend is well done, creating a little of the dark drama of the original "Phantom" but keeping it light enough that it's acceptable.

The music is dramatic (Jennifer Aguirre, as Christine on opening night — there are alternate casts — has a beautiful voice), but the results are hilarious as everybody waves and waves and sings such silly songs as "I Want to be Your Boyfriend," which is based on "All I Ask of You."

Brooklynn Pulver Kohler makes a terrific Madame Carlotta, with Matt O'Malley (who is always over-the-top funny) as Sorelli. When they try to perform, they sound like the Aflac duck.

Dan Larrinaga is a wonderful Phantom, taking his apple box with him when he heads back into the mirror because he's heard himself described as short.

Ed Farnsworth grows into the part of Raoul so that by the time he's died several times at the end ("There! Now it's finished!"), he's a favorite.

Brittney Nielson is Madame Giry, a kind of knockoff of Cloris Leachman from "Young Frankenstein" with the Swedish accent, the odd quirks and the sour face. "Put the candle back!" even makes it into the script.

Rick Miller enters the arena as a totally buff Persian, and Corey Brandenburger is the theater manager trying to maintain order and be on stage at the right times.

Everyone is on the mark and adds to a show that's not so much laugh-out-loud funny as it is a consistent chuckler.

The Phantom keeps tripping on the stupid cat. Madame Giry keeps missing that first step and hiking up her skirts as she dashes away.

There are plenty of groaners: "Oh, It's a booby trap!" from Madame Carlotta and "Frayed knot!" when the rope comes apart at a critical moment.

The props and the set add to the comedy, with a dinghy bobbing in the sewer water and spaghetti hanging from Sorelli's plate as a mirror smokes to reflect the Phantom's anger.

The Phantom plays chopsticks on his wooden organ. The chandelier is made of cotton balls and golden braid so it won't hurt when it falls on Madame Carlotta.

There are comic touches everywhere, and even if you've seen "Phantom" in years past at the Desert Star, this is new stuff.

It makes for a warm, satisfying experience on a cold winter's night.

And, as is usual, the olios following the play are extraordinary. The imitations done by Ed Farnsworth of Marlon Brando, Sean Connery, William Shatner and Gollum singing "Luck Be a Lady" are sheer brilliance, as are the shortened versions of popular Broadway shows.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com

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