Vox Lumiere Creates a Steampunk ‘Phantom of the Opera’

For their version of “Phantom of the Opera,” Vox Lumiere combined steampunk and silent film, and no white mask.

What happens when you combine live theatre, music and silent film? You get a Vox Lumiere production. The Los Angeles–based theatre company recently used The Phantom of the Opera as its inspiration—not the Broadway production, but the 1925 Lon Chaney film—pairing it with a steampunk aesthetic and a contemporary score from Kevin Saunders Hayes. Scroll below for testimonials from the creative team and browse through a slideshow of the production.

Kevin Saunders Hays
Kevin Saunders Hayes

Kevin Saunders Hayes, DIRECTION AND MUSIC: The concept was to take the two-dimensional world of the film and marry that with the live three-dimensional world, so the onscreen actors and the three dimensional “real” actors could interact with each other. We don’t want to mimic what’s going on the screen, so what can we do to enhance the story?

In the silent movie, you see a performance of the opera singer Carlotta singing a famous aria; at the end, the Phantom drops the chandelier on her because he’s very unhappy that she’s performing instead of Christine. I wrote an aria so when the woman [in the film] opens her mouth, our Carlotta is singing a completely different composition. Vox Lumiere means “voices of light,” so when our performers are voicing what this woman is doing on the screen, you’re getting the essence of Vox Lumiere. And unlike the Broadway show, we don’t have a chandelier that we can drop on people—so we just go to a blackout. But with the film running, it really looks like the chandelier is falling on her, so it’s really cool.

Sharell Martin
Sharell Martin

Sharell Martin, COSTUME design: The steampunk reference evokes fantasy and the unusual, combined with the reality of the past. We wanted something that was new and inventive but that audiences could relate to, whether it’s a hairpiece or a feather, so there’s a familiarity that draws them into the show and also attaches to the film. The stage silhouettes are very similar to those in the film, and but it was still a different thing.

I have costumed the Broadway version of Phantom several times; I didn’t want to go anywhere near that. The biggest change for Kevin and me was that we didn’t want that iconic mask. After many discussions, we settled upon goggles. So our Phantom has numerous goggles he wears throughout the show. The hat was representative of a top hat but it’s leather, and it has hardware on it and distressed fabric. His coat was very long and had lots of hardware on it, and we put chains inside so it would be very heavy. His whole wardrobe is very distressed; he was making his own clothes, so everything that he has on is a part of that theatre, a part of his life.

Vox Lumiere’s Phantom of the Opera runs through Dec. 13 at Los Angeles Theatre Center. It was created and directed by Kevin Saunders Hayes and featured choreography by Natalie Willes, costume design by Sharell Martin, hair and makeup design by Kristy Staky, lighting design from William Kirkham and sound engineering by Myles West.