"Sumptuous and unashamedly stagey"
-The Daily Telegraph-

"Still works hard for its audience."
-Time Out-

"Stars, spectacle, score and story"
-The Daily Mail-

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The wow factor you’d expect from such a long running show

Critic Rating

2 July 2015, Her Majesty's Theatre
Amelia Amelia
A trip to see Phantom feels really special. It’s got the wow factor you’d expect from such a long running show. Having played in the West End for nearly 30 years, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical has become a West End institution and London’s second longest running after Les Miserables.

It is a bit of a 1980’s dream…or nightmare depending on how you look at it but overall the show stands the test of time pretty well. Yes there are a few things that could be spruced, The synthy keyboard is a bit over the top (but does have a certain charm), the lightning effects are pretty laughable and I had expected a little bit more from the Chandelier which kind of gently wafts down rather than plummeting, although I don’t know what I was really expecting within the realm of health and safety. But like they say “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and Phantom certainly isn’t broke continuing to pack out the houses night after night.

Sometimes described as a romance, although in my mind more akin to that of an abusive relationship, the story based on the French novel by Gaston Leroux tells the tale of a Paris Opera house that is haunted by a mysterious masked man. The new owners quickly realise they’ve taken on more than they bargained for when they begin receiving demands from a man calling himself ‘The Phantom.’ An array of strange ‘accidents’ result in their star singer, Carlotta, walking out and chorus girl Christine Daee, who has been under the tutelage of a mysterious new teacher (I wonder who that could be?) takes on the role. As the Phantom’s obsession with Christine becomes more extreme so to do the murderous limits he will go to in his reign of terror over the opera house and its inhabitants.

The now famous score is a constant delight and the stunning sets and costumes really are breath taking. Gasps can be heard during the “Masquerade” scene when the company are revealed in an array of stunning costumes.

Argentinian musical theatre star Gerónimo Rauch made a powerful Phantom and Harriet Jones was superb as Christine both vocally and in her acting abilities. There was also good support from Liam Tamne as Raoul Christine’s finance and understudy Fiona Finsbury was fantastic as diva Carlotta.

The production received a standing ovation the night I was there and this was well deserved.

Venue Her Majesty’s Theatre

Performance date 02/07/15

Where I sat Seat N 8 in the Stalls I had a very good view of the stage and the Chandelier! Although this seat is under the overhang it did not obstruct my view at all. Legroom however, was pretty tight.

Lead Actors Phantom – Geronimo Rauch, Christine Daae – Harriet Jones, Raoul – Liam Tamne, Carlotta – Lara Martins, Madame Giry - Jacinta Mulcahy and Meg Giry – Alicia Beck.

Recommended for This is a truly impressive show and a must see for any musicals fan!

25 years on the Phantom continues to shine at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Critic Rating

25 January 2012, Her Majesty's Theatre
Dominic Dominic
Having seen Phantom a number of times both in London, New York and on various UK tours I was interested to revisit the production after the 25 year landmark had been reached. Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular celebration at the Royal Albert Hall last October (thankfully captured on film) proved that there was life still within the piece as performers old and new showed exactly why the production has been a global phenomenon.

The continued hype around the show raises the bar for the current West End production, which is now cemented within the tourist tradition alongside Madame Tussaud's and the London Eye. Despite the bleak economic climate and the January blues, there was a full house at Her Majesty’s this week with a usual mix of people coming to the show for the first time and others reliving a West End experience. The production itself seemed fresh and exciting, with the glorious orchestra blaring the now famous score under the skillful baton of their new resident MD. Since closing for four shows back in 2008 for the installation of a new digital sound system the show has never sounded better. Featuring one of the West End’s largest orchestras the sound adds to the spectacle, from the opening descending chords of the overture to the final reprise.

The current West End cast includes a variety of performers, some who have played the roles throughout the past 25 years as well as those joining the company for the first time. Veterans include Wendy Ferguson as Carlotta alongside Gareth Snook and Barry James as incompetent theatre managers Monsieur Andre and Monsieur Firmin. Having recently performed in the 25th Anniversary production at the Royal Albert Hall the trio were comfortable within each of their roles, matching the energy of the production and showing fantastic characterisation. In the unforgiving role of love interest Raul, Killian Donnelly lacked the charm and charisma of Hadley Fraser but commanded a vocally competent delivery, albeit seeming rather intense in his rendition of ‘All I Ask of You’ in which he continually pushed ahead of the orchestra. Sofia Escobar (who was last seen as an equally disappointing Maria in the international touring production of West Side Story) is let down by her acting ability and thick native Portuguese accent which unfortunately hindered many key acting scenes. Her vocal abilities are arguably strong, as the ‘Think of Me’ cadenza certainly proves, but her limp emotions failed to connect with the audience, shifting much of the sympathy to the wrong place. The Christine doll which the Phantom creates in his labyrinth was less wooden than Escobar who failed to embody the role or to create any personal mark.

Meg Giry is usually a character many find unnecessary, and was sadly not redeemed by dancer Anna Forbes whose thin range cracked on a number of notes, failing to meet the vocal demands of the piece. The role of her mother Madame Giry (Cheryl McAvoy) again lacked any real presence onstage unlike the fantastic Liz Robertson who portrayed her in previous productions, including the Albert Hall concert. She commanded no sense of authority, seeming too young for the role and outside of her physical comfort zone.

The central role was played by Earl Carpenter who is no stranger to the production having previously played a number of roles. He was able to carry the piece emotionally and vocally, delivering the show’s biggest numbers with fantastic character and depth. His higher register was immaculate, drawing the audience in rather than overwhelming them with sound. He was in complete control of the final scene, despite his Christine giving him very little to work with and managed to bring the production to a wonderful climax in a respectful and genuine manner.

It’s peculiar seeing the original production after seeing the sequel Love Never Dies which ran at the Adelphi Theatre for little over a year. Judging the show against the plot of the sequel makes it successful in both it’s own right and as one half of a whole product. As many around the world continue to testify, it is the original that has stood the test of time, and no doubt continue to do so for many years to come.

Where I Sat: Stalls, row K, Seat 22: Centre of the stalls with a perfect view of the stage.

Recommended: To anyone who has ever felt a little bit different. Also those who enjoy a huge musical spectacle with a famous score.

Still going strong after 25 years...

Critic Rating

5 January 2012, Her Majesty's Theatre
Alice Bzowska Alice Bzowska
The most successful entertainment show in history. A masterpiece of theatre. One of the longest-running shows of all time. These were some of the phrases that had been thrown at me over the years, both intriguing me and repelling me away from The Phantom of the Opera, but certainly giving me high expectations of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. It didn’t disappoint.

On paper it didn’t sound entirely like my thing – a mad, musical genius whose obsessions with a beautiful soprano lead him to haunting and controlling the Paris Opera House, which he himself lives beneath. Yet I immediately warmed to the Phantom. I was familiar with songs such as Music of the Night, Angel of Music and the title track, but it wasn’t until I heard them live and in the context of the performance that I truly appreciated the dramatic melodies that often left me with goosebumps.

Just a couple of months after the 25th Anniversary of the show, I walked into Her Majesty’s Theatre, which the Phantom has haunted with his presence since 1986, with extremely high expectations. I was accompanied with a friend of mine who had already seen the show and who doesn’t have a bad word to say about it, and the sheer longevity of the musical assured me that I was not about to see just any musical.

I was expecting the show to open dramatically so was a little surprised during the (initially) underwhelming opening scene of the auction house - until the chandelier came into focus, the orchestra started and I felt chills down my spine in anticipation for the next two and a half hours. I was then captivated into the world of 19th century Paris, and the enigmatic Phantom kept me on the edge of my seat.

After so many years and so many Phantom’s, it must be hard to live up to other people’s expectations of just how the character should be played. I saw Earl Carpenter as the man himself, Sofia Escobar as Christine and Killian Donnelly as Raoul. Carpenter played the Phantom with depth and emotion, although I felt that his vocals weren’t as powerful as I’d have hoped. Sofia Escobar played a brilliant Christine, with shockingly good vocals and emotion in her speech. Originally from Portugal, Sofia is new to the role as she previously only understudied the object of the Phantom’s affection. Irish-born Killian has previously played Jean Valjean in Les Miserables but acted and sung with passion as Raoul, who also wants to win Christine’s heart.

I was told by my friend that the cast were disappointing compared to the 25th Anniversary cast at the Royal Albert Hall – Sierra Boggess as Christine and Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom – but the whole production differed, and Andrew Lloyd Webber must have seen these two as the best performers to play the iconic parts on such an important event. They have both gone on to other work so were not present on Her Majesty’s stage, but I believed Carpenter and Escobar – both fairly new in the roles – performed brilliantly.

There was a danger with the show having such overwhelming praise that I would feel a little deflated, and this was slightly true. I didn’t entirely know what I expected but the lavish praise that is heaped upon The Phantom of the Opera and the awards, durability and critical and public acclaim that the show has received since its opening 25 years ago made me believe that I was to witness something truly out of this world. I had already heard most of the music and I knew the storyline, so maybe these are the reasons as to why I wasn’t all too dazzled. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the show and understood why it hasn’t moved from Her Majesty’s in all these years.

If you haven’t seen the classic show, then see it for yourself and decide if you think it deserves to be the most successful entertainment project in the world. If you have seen it, then you are probably reading this review because you loved it, so I shall say no more!

Where I sat: F2-6. Sixth row of the Stalls on the right-hand side. These seats are great if you like to be close enough to see the facial expressions of the actors but maybe a little too close to be able to take in the whole spectacle of the show. Seats further back in the Stalls or in the Royal Circle would be better.

Recommended: Yes, for those who love Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals and who like classic musical theatre.

John Barber
“A team of supreme theatre craftsmen have seized avidly on its lush romantic agony to produce a musical as sumptuous and unashamedly stagey as a Victorian pantomime – a blessedly trad antidote to the current craze for shows chockablock with laser beams, video streams and fake holographs.”
Andrzej Lukowski
I’m not sure any show ‘deserves’ to be the most successful entertainment event of all time, but I’ll hand it current holder of that title, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ – it still works hard for its audience. Sure, chunks of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s opus have never left 1986. But whereas describing a musical as ‘stuck in the ’80s’ is usually shorthand for cheap, thin synth orchestration, nothing could be further from the truth here: the portentously swirling keyboards and crunch of hair metal guitar that powers ‘Phantom’s title song have a black hole-like immensity, sucking you in with sheer juggernaut bombast. Mostly, though, ‘Phantom…’ remains strong because its high production values haven’t been allowed to sag... while Hal Prince’s production may have been hailed as rather gauche back in the day, in 2013 it all comes across as rather more tasteful than the average jukebox musical.

Read the full review

Baz Bamigboye
Four words sum up the unstoppable success of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s triumphant re-working of this vintage spine-tingling melodrama. Stars, spectacle, score and story. Together they add up to that old magic ingredient: theatricality. There is simply nothing on earth to transport you so quickly or so far into phantasy than a feast of illusions. And Hal Prince’s production stints nothing in providing an unending banquet of the stuff. Jack Tinker, Daily Mail, 10th October 1986