The Three Phantoms
Triple the Entertainment with The Three Phantoms
The weather was drizzly the night we (two of my daughters and I) arrived in Modesto, California for our first encounter with The Three Phantoms. We’d eagerly waited for March 28th so we could see Brad again. Our expectations were running high, and we weren’t disappointed. As we approached the ornate Gallo Center for the Arts, our eyes feasted on its arched, nearly full, glass exterior, illuminated by high-standing street lights. Then when we walked into the foyer with its cream and brown marble staircase, the feeling was one of pure elegance.
We weren’t in our seats very long before the Modesto Symphony Orchestra started a selection from Jesus Christ Superstar. Under Stuart Chafetz’ (the guest conductor’s) direction, the room was quickly filled with breathtaking harmony. But, regardless of its beauty, I sensed the audience felt as I did—wanting to hear and feel the Phantom theme surrounding us. However, we would all need to wait until the conclusion before we would be treated to that special resonance.
We did get a tidbit of it now and then throughout the evening as each ‘Phantom’ in turn snuck out on the stage to sing “Music of the Night” on his own. Brad was the first who dared to try, and Kevin even slipped the conductor some money for his cooperation. But none of them were able to sing more than a few bars before the other two would come out and drag him backstage, threatening him if he tried such a prank again. I guess even the most elegant evening needs a bit of humor here and there, and that trick of theirs provided it.
There were other times when ‘The Three Phantoms’ entertained us with their comedic capabilities. Such as when they joined their voices to sing “Fugue for Three Tinhorns,” “Brush up Your Shakespeare,” “Brotherhood of Man,” and “Standing on the Corner” from Guys and Dolls, Kiss Me Kate, How to Succeed in Business, and Most Happy Fella respectively.
Even though it felt good to chuckle, and it was good for our endorphins as well, the evening would have been a slight disappointment if we couldn’t hear their rich voices harmonize in passionate music. They accomplished that with a marvelous rendition of “They Call the Wind Maria” from Paint Your Wagon.
Another light-hearted segment was when Brad half-way danced or skipped across the stage while singing “The Sara Lee Song” from And the World Goes Round.
It was interesting to hear his story about “If Ever I Should Leave You” from Camelot and how he almost always sang it at auditions. Of course, he pleased us by also singing it, and it was a special treat to listen to his rich voice sing “Begin the Beguine” from Jubilee.
We all know Brad’s accomplishments and the wide range of his baritone voice and acting talents. We know he can be the passionate and dangerous ‘Phantom,’ the righteous and tormented ‘Jevert’ in Les Miserables, and he’s shown us both sides of those extremes as ‘Percy’ in Scarlet Pimpernel. We know he’s been around the world many times sharing his gifts with all and the many awards he’s received along the way. And his recent Lifetime Achievement Award brings tears to this fan’s eyes. He so deserves them all.
Now while we all know about Brad, if you’re like me, we don’t know that much about the other two ‘Phantoms’ who shared the stage with Brad that evening. Even though this writer is a bit prejudice toward Brad, I wouldn’t be doing justice to the remarkable voices of those two men if I didn’t tell you about them
One ‘Phantom’ that night, Craig Schulman, has an impressive list of accomplishments. The one that stood out the most to me is that he is the only performer in the world to have performed the title roles in three of the most extraordinary musicals ever written: Jekyll & Hyde, The Phantom of the Opera, and almost 2000 times as ‘Jean Valjean’ in Les Miserables. His other roles include ‘Che’ in Evita, ‘Tevye’ in Fiddler on the Roof, and ‘Archibald Craven’ in The Secret Garden. He appears to be very versatile also, performing in operas, such as: Carmen, The Crucible, and Die Fledermaus, and on the other end of the spectrum, symphonic pop programs. He’s also appeared on TV programming, and to top it off, he creates and produces his own programs.
With that in mind it was no surprise to hear him sing “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables and “This is the Moment” from Jekyll & Hyde. His rendition of “Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha was amazing, as well as “Being Alive” from Company. Then Brad joined him to sing the duet “Lily’s Eyes” from Secret Garden.
Our last ‘Phantom’ is Kevin Gray. At the time of the performance in March, he was playing the role of ‘Scar’ in The Lion King. He’s played the role of the ‘King’ in The King and I, ‘Phantom’ and ‘Raoul’ in The Phantom of the Opera, ‘The Engineer’ in Miss Saigon, ‘Pontius Pilate’ in Jesus Christ Superstar, ‘Thomas Andrews’ in Titanic, and ‘Gaylord’ in Show Boat. He’s been in many off-Broadway productions and even some TV spots, such as: Law and Order SVU and Miami Vice. In all of his endeavors he has won numerous awards and it’s easy to understand why when you hear him sing. He’s a young, handsome man, but back off ladies; Like the rest of our ‘Phantoms’—he’s married.
He used his tenor voice and acting ability skillfully that night to serenade us with solos such as: ‘The American Dream” from Miss Saigon and “Guido’s Song” from Nine.
After the intermission, the Modesto Symphony Orchestra kept us captivated with a selection from Les Miserables. And then after another entertaining round from our ‘Phantoms,’ the moment we were waiting for arrived. Maestro Chafetz raised his baton and the unmistakable music from The Phantom of the Opera filled the room. You could feel the electricity flow through us all. It was magical, but ended all too soon. Once they had finished, our three handsome ‘Phantoms’ walked out on stage with a thunder of applause—we knew what was coming.
I’d been wondering who was going to sing that signature song or if they would share it, and, if they did, how it would sound. Well, it was very interesting to witness. I’m so used to watching Brad’s movements during that piece that I believed they were the director’s directions and so all performers would move the same, but evidently not. Each one of them had their own interpretation of the passion the ‘Phantom’ was feeling; therefore, the movements of their hands, arms, and body were different—very interesting.
Now as for the sound, I don’t believe anyone was disappointed in what we heard; two tenors and a baritone harmonizing to one of the most enthralling and passionate pieces ever written, “Music of the Night.” It was awesome.
They took several bows and then left the stage, while the room thundered with our persistent applause, forcing them back out for encores. When their voices had sung the last note, they, in complete ‘Phantom’ character, covered the right side of their faces, which brought a smile to all of our heart.
As they disappeared behind the curtain for the last time, we had to say goodnight to a phenomenal evening of music from The Three Phantoms. We were truly blessed that night to be entertained by these three men—such powerful performers.
If The Three Phantoms ever comes close to your area, or even not-so-close, you must be present to experience the laughter—the voices—the magic—the music.