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