MURRAY — As my first visit to the Desert Star Playhouse, I had high hopes for Phantom of the Opera: I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face, written by Peter Van Slyke (with lyrics by Scott Holman). I had heard great reviews of hilarious performances at Desert Star and was excited for the show, which had the same plot and melodies as the famous Phantom of the Opera musical. While the jokes were amusing, the songs wonderfully executed and the actors dramatically waltzed across the stage, the show in its entirety was a bit underwhelming.
The Desert Star Playhouse is a dinner theater and the atmosphere is lighthearted and fun. Pianist Jill Flanagan set the mood with her energetic and talented playing before the show started. The cast then launched into the song, “Phantom of the Opera,” opening the show with some melodrama. And melodrama—with the accompanying emphasis on story and emotion—was indeed the theme of the show, as shown by the actions of lovers Christine (played by Jennifer Aguirre), and Rauol (played by Ed Farnsworth). The Phantom (played by Dan Larrinaga) excelled at the establishing the mood of the show as he swept his cloak whenever making his exit adding to the drama with each whisk of the fabric. Madame Carlotta (played by Laurel Warr) equally displayed much of the showy emotion needed for her role of a snooty diva.
The set design (no designer credited) was simple and minimal, but it allowed the acting, singing and jokes to shine and be the focus of the show. The boat in the final scene was my favorite part of the set design and the cast took full comedic advantage of it.
Offsetting the melodrama, the humor was entertaining but fell flat in some parts. After the third “Watch the first step” gag from various cast members, the bit became tired. Van Slyke’s script had a good mix of old and new jokes; Christine at one point sings “Wrecking Ball” (the only song that didn’t borrow a tune from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical) there are Duck Dynasty jokes throughout, and there are also gags referencing Young Frankenstein. The choreography of the physical comedy was well timed, except for one slap by Madam Giry (played by Brittney Nielson), which was obviously fake.
Holman’s lyrics were well written. I especially enjoyed Aguirre and Farnsworth singing, “I Want to Be Your Boyfriend,” poking fun at dating and the difference between men and women’s view of relationships. Larrinaga’s, Aguirre’s, Farnsworth’s and Warr’s singing truly impressed me. Though the lyrics were different from the original musical, Aguirre and Larringa still sang the same melodies and they hit the high notes expertly.
My favorite part of the night was not the show itself, but the olio that followed it. In an effort to introduce Broadway shows to the YouTube generation, the cast presented condensed versions of Cats, Annie, and other shows. The olio was a way for Farnsworth, Nielson, Aguirre, and Larrinaga to showcase their voices in songs from various Broadway shows. Farnsworth doing impressions of different people singing “Luck Be a Lady” was priceless, particularly when he sang as Gollum. Nothing makes a girl swoon like being serenaded by Gollum.
While some jokes missed their mark, the show as a whole was charming and enjoyable. It is clean, and I would recommend it to anyone 12 years or older, not because there is improper language or humor in the show, but simply because I believe older children and adults would better appreciate the show and understand the references.