“Ingenious… an intense and well-choreographed spectacle” – Life In LA
Distinctly Vox Lumiere: Silence You Can Hear
Written by Evelyn Chai Chua
Vox’s version of the Phantom’s narrative is as provocative as it is genius. A literal coming-together of the main artistic mediums made available through modern technology. It is a performance that optimizes audiences’ optical, auditory, and sensual faculties through the non-traditional combination of live theatrics accompanying silent films.
Vox Lumiere’s ingenious method of allowing penetrating choreography and orchestra level vocal accompaniments to what in all intents and purposes would’ve been just been a mere “silent” film screening. No other group can lay claim to bearing the ability to hear from silence. The group delivered the intensity of this perilous story of unrequited love using today’s musical language of punk rock, EDM, to classical opera. Granted that the steampunk thematic may have been a little on the grungier end for the glamor and prestige that some scenes commanded, the energy from the stage was effective in its ability to bring audiences into the story.
The stage was a venue that showcased the creative heights that music engineers and lighting designers reached when they were forced to marry Carl Laemmle’s 1925 silent film of this French classic with contemporary elements of steampunk costumes and daring choreography.
The show starts with a scene from the film regarding ensuing whispers about an elusive figure that occupies Box 5 of the renowned Paris Opera House. The two main operators of the opera house are shown to remain skeptical but equally cautious of the possibility that an actual ghoul may indeed be trying to disrupt ongoing affairs at the infamous opera house. The rock and roll music and choreography amplified every snare, gasp, and eye roll projected on screen. Audience will be treated to a rendition of Gaston Leroux’s French masterpiece like no other. The operatic solo of The Grand Dame as performed by Danielle Skalsky was one of the most memorable highlights of the performance.
The show proceeded with the eventual emergence of the Phantom in the form of James Lynch. He works his way up and down what looks like metal scaffoldings while belching out sorrowful professions of love towards Christine. The screen continue to show the unraveling of the Phantom’s plot to ensure that Christine become the opera house female lead—hoping to in turn that the siren favors him his unsolicited favors. Carlotta, played by vocal powerhouse Julie Brody was perfect in her number leading up to the play’s climax. The dancers did a magnificent plié filled number along with the grand chandelier disaster that allowed for the eventual abduction of Christine Daaé.
The talent that overflowed on stage included Marisa Johnson and Victoria Levy who both alternated as vocals for the role of Christine Daaé, Julie Brody as Carlotta, James Lynch as The Phantom Erik, D. Valentine as Raoul, and Chris Marcos as Faust. It was hard to not be impressed by each of singers as they belted out songs that ranged from romance pop to impressive operatic numbers. The dancers were also by no means less commanding of applause. The combined pop-ballet numbers necessitated physicality that added more to the impressiveness of the overall ensemble
In the end, one is left nostalgic about how audiences in the era of silent movies experienced entertainment. It marvels each one of us to think that that era commanded a greater sense of imagination to try to fill in dialogues in-between title cards.
The chance discovery of a few silent films on sale at Big Lots some years ago ignited a stroke of brilliance from Vox Lumiere creator Kevin Saunder Hayes. He had found the perfect medium to showcase his knack for underground musicals and composing background music for TV shows. Given the legal hurdles that came with using films produced post-silent film era, the case for using silent films as the backdrop for their shows proved even more compelling. Fast forward to a few years after their Debut production of the Metropolis, the group has produced a total of 4 full stage productions, namely, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Peter Pan,and The Phantom of the Opera. For the last 7 years, Vox Lumiere has taken their production on tour around Europe and America.
This mash-up concept of performing arts was the magnificent brainchild of an artist looking to incorporate the well-written masterpieces of yesterday with impressive techniques and technology and performance arts that were far from available in the distant past. The results is an intense and well choreographed spectacle of dance and song that undoubtedly makes silent films the loudest three dimensional film the audience may be fortunate enough to experience.