Space, apparently, is the place to be.
Just ask Sandra Bullock or George Clooney or Sarah Brightman.
But Brightman really is a space enthusiast – she has plans to journey to the International Space Station in 2015 – and her passion for the final frontier is a tremendous inspiration for her finely produced and precise “Dreamchaser” tour, which settled in at the Fox Theatre Wednesday night.
The two-hour show (two acts, 20 minute intermission, multiple gown changes) is a whirl of color and light and majestic projections of space and vortexes – all of it a bit overwhelming in the first act, but nicely tempered for the second half of the production.
Brightman, famous for originating the role of “Christine” in “Phantom of the Opera,” her onetime marriage to “Phantom” maestro Andrew Lloyd Webber and subsequent worldwide success as a classical crossover star, hasn’t toured in five years. With such a gap, one might have expected a more substantial crowd; then again, a $100-plus ticket price likely froze out many of her casual fans.
The well-heeled audience gushed at every crystalline vocal run, leaping to their feet at the end of “Ave Maria” and “Nessun Dorma.”
Though Brightman’s current songs from her “Dreamchaser” album lean more toward the heavily synthesized pop of her “Phantom” days – which makes sense since “One Day Like This” comes from British group Elbow and “Eperdu,” with its creeping keyboards, is a cover of a Cocteau Twins song – her supple voice clung to the beautiful melodies of the Spanish “Hijo De La Luna” and the Italian “Canto Della Terra,” one of two songs performed with Turkish singer Erkan Aki.
A Brightman show isn’t so much a concert as it is a production, a Broadway-styled event heavy on glamour with little room for spontaneity (indeed, she quietly and quickly addressed the audience a few times, as if she were fearful of breaking the fourth wall).
Songs such as fan favorite “Nessun Dorma” and the opening “Angel,” also the lead track from “Dreamchaser,” featured Brightman rising on a platform, dramatic backlighting spotlighting her elegant, form-fitting gowns and array of headwear (from tiaras to spindly-peacock-feather-type apparatuses).
Throughout the show, a pair of female dancers – not always completely in sync – fluttered around Brightman, who sometimes joined them in a form of slow-motion calisthenics and often projected the practiced glances of a theater pro.
But, “Phantom” aside – we’ll get to that in a moment – it was the simpler moments when Brightman truly sparkled.
Awash in “Wicked”-like green lighting that blocked out the four-piece band that flanked her in pairs throughout the show, Brightman offered the lovely Japanese song, “Kaze No Torimichi” (which translates to “the path of wind”) while sitting on a bench that rose from the stage. She followed that with a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair,” an interesting choice for a singer who likes to go big – because she can. But Brightman retained the song’s simple beauty with a restrained vocal.
No one, however, wanted her to hold back for the gleefully grandiose “Phantom of the Opera.” The song’s iconic minor chords were accompanied by video of a red-hued castle – a perfect backdrop – as Brightman was again joined by Aki until she unleashed a torrent of ever-escalating notes at the song’s climax. Cigarette, anyone?
Though most singers would have retreated to catch a breath after such an exhausting output, Brightman instead dove into “Time to Say Goodbye,” the song made famous in the mid-‘90s as a duet with Andrea Bocelli (those who frequent the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas will recall it immediately).
If she does plan to sing while she’s in space, surely that voice will ring loud and clear back on Earth.