I’m sitting here writing this on a Monday night and thinking back to the same time last week, when I wasn’t just writing about West End theatre, but there, experiencing it. I went with some family members as an early birthday treat to go and see The Phantom of the Opera, which came some two years after my last visit to Her Majesty’s Theatre. This in itself is a travesty baring in mind the calibre of the show, but also considering that Phantom is my all-time favourite musical, two years is much too big of a gap. However, after reacquainting myself with this exquisite piece of musical theatre mastery, I certainly shan’t be leaving it so long until the next time.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera is now in its 29th year, and the second longest running musical in the West End behind Les Miserable. Millions of people from all over the world come to see the classic show, which is based on Gaston Leroux’s original novel of the same name, and has captivated audiences with the legendary love story of the mysterious masked Phantom and his beautiful protégée Christine Daae. In my eyes, Phantom is probably as close to musical perfection as anyone can get. Every aspect of the production works in perfect balance together, the score, the choreography, the staging, the costumes, the special effects… It’s a unique show, filled with darkness, passion, tragedy and love, and just hauntingly beautiful for it.
I saw a Monday night performance (1st June 2015) which featured Standby Phantom Scott Davies playing the title role opposite Alternate Christine, Emmi Christensson. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed that Geronimo Rauch was absent that night, but I’ve always encouraged support for understudies in West End shows and in fact recently wrote an article for this site on exactly that subject. So having never seen Davies’ take on the iconic role, but heard plenty of praise for it, I was keen to see him perform on-stage for myself. That praise was shown to be well-deserved, as he gave a wonderful performance and proved my point once again that audiences should always give understudies the benefit of the doubt – I’m sure there were plenty of theatre-goers there that night who went home as new fans of Davies.
Barring a slight initial confusion regarding Christensson as a blonde-haired Christine, I was quickly drawn back into the show like I’d never been away from it and renewed my love for ‘The Brilliant Original’. It’s timeless, and just as the show itself is always a joy to watch, so too were the current company at Her Majesty’s Theatre. I’m unfortunately yet to see Geronimo Rauch and Harriet Jones perform in their starring roles of course, and I’d jump at the chance to see the superb Kieran Brown play The Phantom, but I’m planning return visits to (hopefully) fulfil both wishes. While I may have to wait to see them on the stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre though, an opportunity to see the Phantom company giving an up-close-and-personal performance on a very different stage isn’t too far away.
The Phantom of the Opera is the first show to perform in the Late Night Cabaret Season presented by TheatreMAD this summer, in aid of The Make A Difference Trust. The West End charity brings together the theatre industry and its supporters to raise funds for HIV and AIDS Projects that raise awareness and provide care, support and education in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa; as well as supporting those in the entertainment industry facing hardship as a result of long term chronic illness. MADTrust is behind such popular annual events as West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas, and has staged many cabarets and concerts over the years in collaboration with the casts of West End shows. Now, for 2015, MADTrust has teamed up with five of the biggest musicals in the West End for a series of late night fundraising cabarets, which run between August and October – starting with The Phantom of the Opera. Following their evening performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre on Saturday 8th August, the cast of Phantom will ‘journey to the lair’ of the Prince of Wales Theatre where they’ll continue to entertain their second audience of the night in the theatre’s downstairs cabaret venue, the Delfont Room. It’s a chance for fans to see them out of costume and out of character, giving a far more intimate performance that allows each cast member the opportunity to showcase their voices.
The Phantom of the Opera have collaborated with MADTrust on previous cabarets at the Delfont Room, with past casts fundraising for the charity with such cabaret performances as A Complicated Love in 2011, and the follow-up event, Jubilation, in 2012. I’ve worked with MADTrust on many of the events they’ve staged, including those Phantom cabarets, and having seen the musical’s current company for myself, their upcoming cabaret for the charity is sure to be just as phantastic as previous efforts were (no more Phantom puns, I promise).
The Phantom of the Opera are leading the 2015 Late Night Cabaret Season for MADTrust with their August cabaret, but also appearing at the Delfont Room as part of the season’s line-up are the casts of The Book of Mormon (13th August), Miss Saigon (17th September), Mamma Mia! (24th September) and Gypsy (8th October). Each cabaret promises superb performances from the talented casts of the five West End shows, and a chance to see them as you’ve never seen them before; with the added benefit of lending support to a worthy charity. It’s a phabulous (okay, that’s definitely the last one!) one-time-only opportunity that any theatre fan will kick themselves if they missed…so don’t.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 9th June 2015