Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Charles Hart
Additional Lyrics: Richard Stilgoe
Director: Laurence Connor
Reviewer: Helen Patrick
Way beneath the Paris Opera House living in darkness and shadow, the Phantom haunts the theatre and its cast, what will he do to ensure it runs to his liking?
The story of Phantom of the Opera is taken from the original novel Le Fantome de L’Opera by Gaston Leroux and adapted for theatre by Lloyd Webber as a personal love letter to his wife of the time Sarah Brightman. The original production is still running in the West End, now in its 26th year and recently celebrated its 25th Anniversary on Broadway. To celebrate this momentous milestone, Cameron Mackintosh alongside long term collaborator Laurence Conner have created an all new touring production.
At the heart of the story, lies a message of hope, desire and love. What will we do for recognition and how do we place the affections we so longingly want to share? Christine Daae (Katie Hall) is an ingénue ballet dancer within the opera house’s Corp de Ballets. She has secretly been receiving vocal lessons from an unknown tutor, a masked man, who haunts the vaults of the opera house, making threatening demands on how the building should be run and managed. When Cristine finds love once again with Raoul, The Vicount de Chagny – a childhood sweetheart (Simon Bailey) the Phantom’s jealousy rages and threatens to destroy everything that has gone before him.
Katie Hall is magnificent as Daae, her strong soprano vocals, fills the immense auditorium of the Empire theatre with emotion and power, she brings with her a more fully rounded, compassionate and sexier side to the character than we have previously seen before. Simon Bailey is no stranger to the rôle of Raoul, having played the part for many years in the West End, suave and sophisticated he commands the stage with elegance and charm and his chocolaty vocals delight one and all.
The surprise of the night – was the appearance of John Owen-Jones in the title rôle, appearing due to illness of Earl Carpenter and his understudy( We wish them both a speedy recovery.) Owen-Jones has already proven a fan favourite in the rôle, and is fast becoming a record holder for playing the rôle more times than any other performer. Here he proves why, he grabs the audiences with sheer commitment, and holds them firmly in his palms for the rest of the evening. He majestically wins you over with his menacing charm, his powerful and emotive interpretation of the character and the songs, brings fresh life to this well known musical.
Paul Browns lavish new set design, brings the opera house and its hidden layers vividly to life, while Paule Constable’s lighting is powerful and atmospheric, with much emphasis on shadow and the unseen. Paul Kieve’s illusions bring another level of wonder to the production, the final disappearance of the Phantom being a pivitol and emotional moment.
Laurance Connor has over the years reinvigorated many musicals with new productions; Oliver, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and now Phantom. He has a keen eye for detail and here in this new production, he manages to make more sense of the story than ever before, characters seem more rounded and believable and with such a treasured musical, this is no easy feat.
Phantom of the Opera looks set to run and run, and while the musical gets lovingly refreshed in a way such as this, then it has no worry. Sure there will be purists who would argue that you shouldn’t change anything, but when you can’t fault any of the production values or cast…then this proves the perfect fit.
Runs until 9th March 2013