Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Phantom of the Opera
Synetic Theater
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Miss You Like Hell and Gun & Powder and report on the 2020 Helen Hayes Awards Nominations

Maryam Najafzada and Irina Tsikurishvili
Photo by Johnny Shryock
Phantom of the Opera is the kind of lush, gothic story that Synetic Theater loves, and the current production serves up thrills and beauty with a few twists. First, since the Arlington, Virginia, company is known for its wordless adaptations of classics, the heroine Christine (Maryam Najafzada) is now a member of the Paris Opera Ballet company rather than an opera singer; second, in this version the Phantom is a woman.

As director Paata Tsikurishvili has reimagined Gaston Leroux's novel, the Phantom (Irina Tsikurishvili, also the choreographer) was once an ambitious ballerina (Lottie Guidi) who was trapped in the opera house during a fire. With severe burns to her face, she went into hiding in the cellars of the building, emerging years later to strive for glory vicariously through Christine. (Company composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze created the propulsive, heavily rhythmic score, with a few interpolations from the classical repertoire. This version has nothing to do with Andrew Lloyd Webber.)

Irina Tsikurishvili is magnetic whenever she appears, demonstrating complete control, both physical and emotional, of her character; her interplay with Guidi is fascinatingly detailed. Najafzada ably shows Christine's progression from uncertainty to confidence, then horror.

To accommodate the theatrical setting, this production blends Synetic's dynamic style of storytelling through gesture and flowing movement with elements of classical ballet. Daniel Pinha's scenic design incorporates several three-dimensional structures that take on different aspects as they move around the stage, as well as flat panels that display Patrick W. Lord's sometimes dizzying projections and Brian S. Allard's atmospheric, colorful lighting design.

Erik Teague's costumes help to tell the story through their primary focus on black, white and red, creating some striking and surrealistic visuals: a mysterious army of specters in the Phantom's lair who, when needed, also serve as pieces of furniture; a shimmering, undulating sheet representing an underground lake; a vision of Christine as a statue, her flowing drapery covering the staircase on which she stands.

Phantom of the Opera runs through February 29, 2020, at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington VA. For tickets and information, please call 866-811-4111 or visit

Adapted by Nate Weinberger from the novel by Gaston Leroux
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili
Choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili
Composer: Konstantine Lortkipanidze

Phantom: Irina Tsikurishvili
Christine: Maryam Najafzada
Young Phantom: Lottie Guidi
Carlotta: Rachael Small
Raoul: Jacob Thompson
Moncharmin: Delbis Cardona
Ensemble: Janine Baumgardner, Thomas Beheler, Julia Ruth Holland, Joshua Cole Lucas, Scean Aaron, Eliza Smith