Judging by the reactions of the considerable crowd that showed up in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts Friday night, the vocal stylings of the Three Phantoms were quite a success.
And without a doubt, it was because the audience got exactly what it was looking for -- spirited renditions of Broadway classics, sung by a trio of seasoned stage veterans.
But if you're not especially inclined toward fake smiles, over-the-top deliveries, aw-shucks expressions and all-around mustiness of musicals such as "Guys and Dolls," "Paint Your Wagon" and "My Fair Lady," the Three Phantoms are probably akin to three circles of your own personal hell.
The featured vocalists, Cris Groenendaal, Ted Keegan and Craig Schulman, have all played Andrew Lloyd Webber's bastardized version of Gaston Leroux's character "The Phantom of the Opera" at some point in their careers. All three are solid, enthusiastic performers and are clearly well versed in musical theater, and their show was organized around their strengths.
After the rousing jazz intro of Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along," courtesy of the six-piece orchestra (whose rich, punchy arrangements were the highlight of the evening), the Three Phantoms hit the stage. The trio tore into the "Guys and Dolls" song "Fugue for Three Tinhorns," which depicts three guys betting on different horses, each certain of a gambling windfall.
This was followed by plenty of other numbers that make you want to nudge your best girl under her chin, including "Standing on the Corner" (from "The Most Happy Fella").
Plenty of ballads provided needed breaks from all the whimsy, and those sung by Groenendaal were pretty satisfying, especially the Cole Porter classic "Begin the Beguine" and two songs from "Sweeney Todd" -- "Joanna" and "Pretty Women." Groenendaal may not have the strongest voice of the Phantoms, but his affable personality, natural stage presence and lack of ego made him the best.
All opinions on musicals aside, one thing must be agreed upon: The Three Phantoms are about as funny as their namesake's facial deformity.
Three Phantoms in Concert
Featuring Craig Schulman, Cris Groenendaal and Ted Keegan on Friday night in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts.