The Phantom of the Opera Review – 25th January, 2012
In its 26th Year at Her Majesty’s Theatre still playing to full houses (mid-week), Phantom of the Opera for the most part, was as enthralling as ever to watch. Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s beautiful score and Charles Hart’s evocative lyrics tell the story of the ‘ghost’ that haunts the Paris Opera House, adapted from Gaston Leroux’s famous 1911 novel.
The story begins in late 19th Century Paris on the stage of the Paris Opera House. The Phantom hides beneath the Opera House in a lonely existence, ashamed by his physical appearance. All in the opera company, fears him except for his young protégée Christine Daae, a beautiful, young soprano who comes from the Corps de Ballet to suddenly take over as lead vocalist, saving the opera’s opening night. The story tells of the intense love the Phantom holds for Christine and the lengths he will go to obtain her love in return.
As soon as the prologue is over the orchestra erupts into the overture. A twenty-seven piece orchestra under the direction of Adam Rowe make the music from this classic ever more impressive. The musicians rarely get mentioned in musical reviews but in this case you can’t fail to notice the brilliance exuding from the pit. Obviously, this is in most part credit to Lloyd-Webber but also to David Cullen who devised the orchestrations, winning him the notable New York Drama Desk Award.
Christine Daae (Sofia Escobar) excellently displays the vulnerability and desire her character should have in her relationship with the Phantom. Her effortless, classy soprano charms you from the start and although her native Portuguese accent creeps in at times, it is very endearing to the character of Christine. Her solo in Act 2 ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ was a highlight of the show.
Earl Carpenter is currently playing the Phantom. He comes directly from performing the role of Khashoggi in the UK Tour of ‘We will Rock You’. At times he gave the vocal a little too much pop/rock quality but in Act 2 Carpenter came into his own, especially in ‘The Point of No Return’. Raoul, played by Killian Donnelly is Christine’s friend and love interest. The partnership between Raoul and Christine was, both powerful and emotive. Their duet “All I Ask of You” was moving and vocally superb.
The wit and comic timing of Gareth Snook and Barry James, who play the newly appointed Managers of the Paris Opera Company, stood out in all of their scenes. The Ballet Mistress, Madame Giry (Cheryl McAvoy) was excellently portrayed, as was the spoiled leading soprano Carlotta (Wendy Ferguson) disgusted she had been knocked from her post by the young and beautiful Christine Daae under the orders from the Phantom. Another highlight was ‘Prima Donna’, the skills of Lloyd-Webber and his team shines through in the musical/vocal arrangement of this song.
‘Masquerade’ at the top of Act 2 was colourful costume wise, yet the mannequins on the grand staircase placed there to swell out the ensemble crowd looked like they had seen better days. Rumor has it that the brand new touring production has a much larger ensemble, so hopefully there will no longer be the need for stuffed dummies.
The new touring production directed by Laurence Connor is due to open in Plymouth’s Theatre Royal in Feb 2012, thereafter touring the UK well into 2013. The promise of a larger cast, brand new choreography by Scott Ambler and the latest wizardry in theatre set design by Paul Brown, will hopefully continue it’s famed success improving yet further the show’s original production. All credit too must go to this West End phenomenon for even now, playing to packed houses 26 years after it first opened. In this day and age of musical theatre this is fast becoming a rarity, but this classic show is timeless, the genius musical score and charming love story is guaranteed to continuously draw in the audiences from all over the world.
Content updated 17th October 2014