Phantom of the hip-hop-era

  • 2007-10-24
  • By Joel Alas

CHANGING MASKS: Rapper Chalice breaks from his usual style to play the Phantom in this musical production.

TALLINN - Estonian performer Chalice is an enigmatic artist. He is best known as a rapper, and a talented one at that, earning praise while most white European hip-hoppers draw derision.
But from November 16 he will don a very different mask. Chalice has been cast to play Erik, otherwise known as the Phantom of the Opera, in a production at Tallinn's Linnahall.
The challenging role will be a stretch but not an impossible one. Chalice is a skilled singer, pianist and writer. It's not his first involvement with theater, either, as he has written and performed in plays at the avant-garde Von Krahl Theater.

The only stretch might be for his loyal fans 's most of them young hip-hop aficionados 's who might find it difficult to accept his switch to such a mainstream, commercial and high-brow production.
There's another challenge in store for this particular production 's explaining that it's not the musical they might be expecting.
You see, it's not "Phantom of The Opera," the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that most people around the world are familiar with. It's called simply "Phantom," and although it's based on the same story, it's an entirely different production.
In fact, this production lays claim to being the original and authentic Phantom musical, though it's certainly not the most famous.

It was written in 1982 by Maury Yestin and Arthur Kopit, who had obtained the right to do so from the estate of Gaston Leroux, the French writer who penned the novel "Le Fantom de l'Opera" back in 1910.
But in 1984 they were dealt a blow when it was announced that a British production of the same story would be staged in London. Strangely, this was also not the Lloyd Webber version, but one created by a writer and director named Ken Hill.
Then in 1986, the Lloyd Webber production premiered in London and went on to become one of the most successful musicals of all time, with productions staged in nearly every major city in the world.
Yestin and Kopit almost gave up their quest completely. Neither of the other two "Phantom" productions had been given rights to adapt the story, yet this seemed to matter little.
Upon seeing the Lloyd Webber version, Yestin and Kopit realized theirs was a very different production. Rather than a grandiose rock opera, theirs was a more classical score which examined other aspects of the story.
"Phantom" premieried in the U.S. in 1991, and has gone on to play across the world, although it is always overshadowed by its more succesful rival.

"Lloyd Webber didn't consider that the manager of the theater was the father of Erik, the Phantom. It gives a whole new angle to the story," explains Liis Kolle, director of the Tallinn production.
"In this story, the three main characters are the Phantom, Christine and the manager. The Count, Raoul, is not so important. We also don't use rock music or electric guitars, it's a more traditional musical orchestra."
This will be Kolle's first foray into musical theater. Previously she has directed opera productions, which is why she was selected for this particular musical. Kolle said she enjoyed working with actors on dialogue, and on using longer dance routines.

"It's not so far from an opera, though, which is why they asked me to do it," she said.
Will Chalice be able to make the transition to musical theater? Kolle said he is already relishing the role while in rehersals. The question remains 's will his rap audience follow him into the theater?

Nov. 16 - Dec. 1
Linnahall, Tallinn