- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Director Sharon F. Patton has organized a drop-dead beautiful show of African Treasures as the centerpiece of the National Museum of African Art’s 25th anniversary. She chose 73 objects that have rarely — or perhaps even never — been exhibited. They include the arresting “Mother of Twins Figure” by the Yoruban artist Areogun of Nigeria; a beautifully crafted bronze “Male Commemorative Head” from the Benin kingdom, and a 15th-century Dogon female “Figure” — the oldest work in the show — that seems to stretch toward the sky. A huge, terrifying looking Congolese male “Figure,” an amalgam of wood, brass, horn, leopards’ teeth and reptile skins, is the hit of the show. At the Museum of African Art, 950 Independence Ave. SW. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily (except Christmas Day) through Aug. 15. Free. 202/633-4600 and www.nmfa.si.edu.

— Joanna Shaw-Eagle

If you can survive the time lags, extended waits for the movie versions of certain musicals may prove rewarding. They have in the case of “Chicago” two years ago and The Phantom of the Opera this season. Andrew Lloyd Webber approached Joel Schumacher about directing the cinematic “Phantom” back in 1988. A projected start with the original theatrical co-stars, Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, fell through in 1990. The young leads who adorn the eventual movie version, which opened yesterday, certainly justify patience and trust. Seventeen-year-old Emmy Rossum’s Christine is a lyric ingenue for the ages. The movie improves on the stage’s token romantic rivalry by casting Patrick Wilson as the respectable suitor, Raoul, now a genuinely dashing and virile alternative to Gerard Butler as the sinister and lovesick Phantom. It’s a sumptuous and often enthralling production, filled with gratifying surprises, whether you know the show too well or merely by reputation.

— Gary Arnold

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