The Phantom of the Opera review from 2000
Next Review by Sven Verlinden Nov 2000
Last week, Scott was off so Richard Halton did all the shows and of course now was the time to see this wonderful actor as the Phantom ! I had been waiting so long for this to happen, and Saturday's matinee I sat dead center Front Row. WONDERFUL seat !!! (B10) Anyway, it turned out to be an "understudies only" day, coz Charlotte, Matt, Scott of course, Shan Cothi, Lee David Bowen and Donald Francke were all off. The 2nd cover Chirstine was on (Ana Marina). She was quite good. I wasn't blown away but she was nice. She has a fresh voice and the acting was good in various scenes. Nicholas Maude was Raoul. Nothing special really. The voice is OK but he looks far too old and his acting is never above average. He has a funny face which isn't always very effective in the more dramatic scenes.
Karen Broughton was Carlotta. I'd seen her already in April this year and she has a wonderful voice. Very beautiful, maybe a bit too nice for the role. Actingwise she misses some "edge", but still she's fine. Robin Green was Piangi. Nothing special, but he had a nice high C. He was a bit unsure actingwise though...
David Fortune was doing Buquet, which was good. OK, to the main point of attention: RICHARD !!! My goodness, can I just say he was awesome ?!! Lately, I have never ever been blown away by any Phantom, but now (my 25th time seeing the show BTW) I was dead ! His mirror was brilliant, the way he sings "to *glance* behind" in the title song must be heard to be believed and his MOTN was utterly breathtaking. Normally MOTN isn't really the highlight for me, but now it WAS. Really, from start to finish I was in complete adoration...
In the 2nd act it got even *worse* ;-) His Wandering Child was wonderful: by the way he sang "*Come* to me strange angel", I'm amazed I'm still alive... From PONR onwards, I'd like to give you a review second by second, but alas I can't remember everything. It was brilliant ! The bench scene was intriguing ;-)
He started the Final Lair quite violently. When Christine sang "This haunted face", he picked up the flowers and before giving them to her, he wiped and blew away the "dust" on it. That was utterly funny. Wonderful ! And when Raoul came in, he was VERY sarcastic. Threw away the doll with a "salto mortale" ;-) The way he sat in the throne was gorgeous. His hands were playing Rachmaninov on the side of the throne ;-)
When he broke down after "You've passed the point", he sort of hid himself behind the score at the organ, and when Christine started to sing again, he sort of came slowly from behind it and started to wrap the score with his hands, very nervously. FANTASTIC !!!!! He also had a very nice way of pushing Christine to his body, very sensual, not violent at all.
? His You try my patience was very deep and "make your *choice*" was the most naturalistic way of saying this line I've ever heard. Wonderful stress on *choice*. He was very calm before the Kiss (I would've liked him to do more there) but the Kiss itself was wonderful. He sort of bent his head after the first and the second kiss and put it slowly on Chirstine's shoulders. I was in tears !!!!!
He wasn't voilent at all when he said "Go now"; instead he was thinking up something to save them, instead of just agressively shouting like Scott does. His "and leaaaavvvveee meeeee" was pure gold: his voice was very emotional, without breaking though. When Christine came back, she gave him the ring and she held his arm instead of his hand, so when she left she slowly pulled her arm away, ever so slowly and he started crying. You can imagine the state I was in. His sobbing was never overacted and at the end of his "it's over now", he dropped the veil which came down very slowly (seemed ages, but of course he's very tall). The cloak almost flew in the audience when he wrapped it around himself, and then he was gone. And I was gone too ;-)
He got a wonderful curtain call, with lots of cheers (including mine ;-) After the show, my friend and I went to say hi to him, and he came down in make up. Of course I made a picture with him. He's such a lovely guy. It's only the 2nd week he was on since January this year, and I can tell you, he deserves to become the lead when Scott leaves.
I hadn't seen the show in London since July last year (with Mike Sterling as the Phantom), so I was really keen to see it again with some new faces. I had no real expectations concerning Scott Davies: some found him average, some very good. Well, I must say, his first scenes were very impressive indeed. The Mirror was nice; his voice is very seductive. MOTN was excellent. It was really great, with a lot of passion and changes of moods. His top notes were fantastic and he really made the best of the song. His Angel scene was great, although his "Goooooo" was rather instable...
The Mausoleum scene was perfect (thanks to the wonderful singing of both Charlotte and Matt as well). I thoroughly enjoyed it. PONR was again wonderful, really seductive and enormously passionate. He started *whispering* the lines instead of singing which was very effective. Now we come to the best thing in the show: the Final Lair. Well, to be honest, I did NOT like Scott's interpretation on Saturday. He really went over the top as soon as Matt arrived. He started shaking with his body, waving his arms like a psycho, and shouted instead of singing. It was NOT in connection to what he was doing before (being very passionate and romantic). I was really disappointed. As soon as he yelled Christine and Raoul away, he became fantastic again. His crying is truly wonderful. he said "Christine ... , please ...". HEARTWRENCHING !!!! I cried my eyes out. His last line was *perfect*, simply perfect and he didn't even need a breath in between "it's over now, the music of the ... NIGHT". He did it all in one single breath. So, overall I was really pleasantly surprised by his nice touches to the role, except for his Final Lair.
Charlotte Page was perfect. Truly wonderful actress she is and she has a wonderful voice, which she uses to great effect. Wishing was a showstopper and I can't really say anything which she did less well. Maybe one thing: her Think of Me was a bit too operatic for my tastes. Matt Cammelle is not my favourite performer, but he did well on Saturday. The voice was good and he acted rather well. He is not my favourite Raoul by far, but he was acceptable.
There was an u/s Carlotta on (Karen Broughton). She had a good voice, very operatic, but maybe too sweet for the role. I have to mention Heather Jackson again as Giry, coz she's brilliant. Chris Harley was doing Passarino, which was great fun. I didn't really like the new Firmin (David Delve). He constantly goes hysterical and he reminds me of Buster Keaton all the time. Richard Halton as Andre was perfect, very funny. I hope I get to see him once in the leading role...
Last thing: Nick Davies did a wonderful job, conducting the orchestra very well, and with a lot of intensity. It's been a long time since I saw someone conducting with pleasure at Her Majesty's.
I heard the cast will change slightly in May, when a new Carlotta comes in. The principals are all staying for the moment.
Review by Sven Verlinden Wed 3rd March 1999 eve and Sat 6th March 1999 eve.
This week was a very special week for Phantom: most of the principals in the leading roles were leaving on 6th March, with the exception of the alternate Christine, Sarah Ryan, who left on 3rd March.
Mike Sterling, now playing the Phantom, had took the whole week off to have some extra rehearsals for the part; so his understudy, Chris Harley, was playing Raoul in that last week.
I noticed some other changes; the most striking one being the absence of Philip Griffiths, who had been replaced by Christopher Blades in the roles of Monsieur Reyer and the Auctioneer. Later on I learned that Griffiths had got the job of Resident Director at HMs. Blades was not bad at all, really trying not to be just a copy of Griffiths, but putting a new touch to the role. On both performances, the role of Passarino was played by swing Adrian Scott as well, who wasn't really very special.
Well, let me start reviewing the Wednesday performance first. It was the first time (and so the last time as well) I saw Sarah Ryan in the role of Christine. I was very happy about that, since she at least has the right looks (i.e. looking young enough to be believable) for the part. Her voice was very nice, really suitable for the role. She tends to overact at times, but the key songs (Think of Me, Wishing) were extremely well done. She interacts very nicely with Glyn as well (much more than Jill Washington, but I'll get to that later...). Especially in the PONR, she really gave the song an erotic flavour. In the Final Lair, she gave the best of herself, but sometimes she screamed a bit too much for my tastes (as well during Stranger, which was a bit too much to be good...). Overall, she really impressed me. After the normal curtain call, she got a bunch of flowers from Glyn and got the last bow; it's really a pity she's left...
On this performance, the role of Piangi was played by Brendan MacBride. He has a very nice tenor voice (having played numerous romantic tenor roles in the opera world), but his acting as Piangi was a bit less interesting. I missed some of the typical silly Piangi humour, and he overacted quite a bit.
All the other principals (Firmin, Andre, Giry, Meg) did nothing very spectacularly different than on my previous visits, except for of course Jasna Ivir as Carlotta. I cant believe she still finds different ways to make the part of Carlotta one of the highlights in the show. Unbelievable ! She threw in the most wonderful eye-movements I've ever seen.
Chris Harley was fairly mediocre on Wednesday, up to a certain point when he became awful ! During the Kiss in the Final Lair, he started shouting NOOOOOO!!!. This was soooooo annoying, and it ruined the whole scene. Ive never seen him do that, and I hope not to see it ever again.
Well, onto Mr. Kerslake. He was in very nice voice, really going for it. In the Mirror scene, he was extremely angry, becoming more friendly in Flattering.... Unfortunately, there was no smoke when the mirror opened, and I heard some psssssshhhh, so I guess they tried but the smoke machine didnt work.
Glyn really took his time for the to sing for my music, my music lines. MOTN was very interesting. He whispered stirs very nicely. Turn your face away, from the garish..., which he normally does very awkwardly, was extremely nice this time, very romantic. He really gave the best of himself in the next lines, took his time for and you'll live as you've never lived before. Really threw himself onto the portcullis. His long to BEEE was extremely emotional this time. Again, really taking his time for Only then can.... Then he really became romantic, really emotional on Touch me, trust me.... Very interesting indeed.
His Stranger scene was very very good, really overcome. Maybe he reacts a bit too late when Christine rips of the mask and Is this what you wanted to see was a bit different this time. On Damn you, curse you ! he really gave the best of himself. Waited quite a long time before starting Stranger.... This loathsome gargoyle was very dirty this time. Sounded a lot like Anthony Warlows Hyde actually.
I gave you my music was excellent as always. Really very soft and sweet. Whispered some very nice Oh Christines.
Wandering Child is my favourite number in the show, but Glyn doesn't do this very well I think. He should be the centrepiece, but he can hardly be heard in the trio... Chris Harley annoyed me here too: he didnt sing his lines, but SCREAMED them...
From PONR, it got very interesting indeed. He was simply excellent opposite Sarah. How long should we two wait... was very sensual. In the Final Lair hes always at his best, so I was especially looking forward to it this time. As I said, Sarah really screamed a bit too much... He was really very emotional, maybe getting a bit too much bewildered during Pity comes too late. But afterwards he was fantastic. After Harleys extremely ridiculous LET ME SEE HER, Glyn gave him the best BE, MY GUEST...... SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIR I've ever seen. He became very sarcastic at that I would harm her...? but from Past all hope of cries he was sooooo emotional, really great. Make your choice was extremely distressed. He overdid the Kiss a bit again, but I could live with that now. Really took his time before releasing Raoul, and I mean certainly over 90 secs ! It was wonderful, he tried to make it believable that Erik made the choice to free them. Go now was sooooo good again, really totally overcome. The way he does Christine, I ..... Love ...... You can't be bettered really, no way. I was in a terrible state by then. His last notes were just there, but only just, as he was soooo emotional, really wonderful actually.
The Saturday eve performance, the last night, was even more emotional, and I can tell you, not only for the actors !
David Hillman was back as Piangi, and I wasnt really happy about that. But to be fair, all I can say is that the whole cast really went for it, giving the best performance in years. Jill Washington was on as Christine (becoming the alternate for a few months now), and she really looks very old when you see her from Front Row. Anyway, she doesnt have a bad voice (as I said in an earlier review), but its a bit too weak, and she can't really play with it (if you know what I mean). Glyn's Mirror was even more angry this time, again becoming more nice during Flattering.... MOTN was not as nice as on Wednesday, he wasnt really concentrating as much. He really had some trouble with some of his notes (You have come here) because of him being already emotional about the sad occasion. After that, when he's composing, they changed his white feather into a green one, which was rather funny... His Stranger was again very nice: his looks at the monkey are adorable. I also love the way he crawls to Christine, really lying on the ground. The Angel scene was very touching, very nice indeed.
Meanwhile, Leo Andrew as Andre had a ball with Jasna. Both were really trying to make each other laugh THE WHOLE TIME. The way Leo did the in the meantime, ladies and gentlemen lines, were out of this world.
In Wandering Child, Glyn still didnt convince me much, although his yearning... was extremely nice this time. His dialogue with Harley was better, but still not angry enough...
During the 2nd Notes scene, Leo Andrew started mumbling his lines Now whats the matter; Signora listen; Signor! Signora!: this was hilarious, but Jasna succeeded not to laugh; I didnt succeed... :-)
PONR was very romantic, not violent at all. I simply *adored* the way he already tried to say to Christine not to come any closer at You've passed the point of no return (a thing he always does very good after the Kiss), but I'd never seen him do it in PONR already ! Bravo Glyn ! He shouted No! very well after she eventually ripped off the mask and wig... Down Once More was very nice; he really went mad...
Jill was extremely bad in the Final Lair, really giving not a single thing to Glyn to react to. He did This face, the infection extremely lovely this time. From then on I was crying the whole time: the whole Gulf of Mexico came out of my eyes !
He wasnt really *sitting* in the throne, like he normally does, but was more *leaning* in it, to face Raoul and Christine: worked rather well !! Harleys Let me see her ! was even worse this time, but Glyn didnt feel like doing this incredible Be my guest sir ! as sarcastically again. From the tears I might have..., his eyes were filled with tears, really streaming down his face. When he was in such a state, really emotional, he sang so, do you end your days with me to Jill so wonderfully, and she actually said NO!, really obvious. Can you believe this ???? I was sooo angry with her, really almost boooooing at her at the curtain call. How can you, as an actor playing opposite such a horrible actress, give a wonderful performance ??? I still cant figure out how Glyn managed to go on... AARRGGHH... When he was awaiting the Kiss, he was genuinely overcome, and I can't tell you in what state I was myself; well, I was nearly dead by then ! After that, he nearly fainted, really crying his heart out. At one point I thought they would have to bring the curtain down... as he was so overcome. Harley really had to hold Jill on-stage when Glyn said Go now!, otherwise she would have run straight off !!! For this, she really should be sacked !!!!
In the Masquerade reprise, he copied the movements of the monkey with his arms, which was soooo beautiful ! Then the very last notes, well he couldnt sing them anymore: he tried, but the voice broke completely, but it was SOOOOO MOVING ! Indescribable... The curtain call was fantastic, and when Jasna came on-stage, everyone started screaming at the top of their voices, really incredible. She actually burst into tears and didnt stop until the curtain came down again... I will really miss her in the show... When Glyn came on, everyone was standing, and he was so moved by all this, he really almost fainted. Well, so did yours truly...
It was an incredible night, which Her Majesty's Theatre will never forget: Im sure of that !
Review by Sven Verlinden (Monday (14/09/98) and on Wednesday eve (16/09/98)
This time with Glyn Kerslake starring as the Phantom, Jill Washington returning as Christine, Mike Sterling (Monday) and Chris Harley (Wednesday) as Raoul.
Seeing Glyn as the Phantom was a dream come true for me, as I had always hoped he would play Phantom one day. Itï¿½s not really the most obvious choice to cast him in a role like that, as he has done so many juvenile roles (Enjolras, Joe Gillis, Chris Scott, ...) before, but I was really looking forward to it.
I wonï¿½t compare both performances (I have my reasons for this), but I must say: Glyn is a truly great actor, with a wonderful voice and although heï¿½s not *perfect* as Phantom, he moved me to tears in a way no other Phantom could before. His first appearance (Mirror) was a treat, with his mysterious voice resounding through the whole theatre. He didnï¿½t do anything different than other Phantoms in the title song, but he moved gracefully and filled the stage with his presence. His ï¿½Music of the Nightï¿½ was extremely emotional and powerful and he hypnotized the audience with his voice. He didnï¿½t catch Christine (heï¿½s the first I think in London not doing this, but apparently Hal Prince has changed it now for all the productions), but covered her with his cloak in a very sweet and caring way.
His ï¿½Stranger than you dreamt itï¿½ was very scary (but fortunately not demonic nor revolting) as it should be. His next scenes in Act 1 (the Il Muto scenes) were not bad, but not really commanding. His ï¿½Angelï¿½scene was extremely good, very light and in the right pitch (which seems to be very difficult for other Phantoms).
In Act 2, as the Red Death, he moved his jaws a bit too much. The ï¿½Wandering Childï¿½ sequence was not bad either, but he doesnï¿½t draw the focus on himself, which doesnï¿½t really work.
But then a whole new world opened for me... His Point of no Return was very good, and when Jill uncovered his cloak, he really felt lost. He didnï¿½t hide himself as long as others Iï¿½ve seen, but sang his lines more to Jill personally. When she ripped of his mask, his face was wonderful (surprised and in pain). When he sang his ï¿½Down once Moreï¿½lines, he was extremely good. His Final Lair scene was very very good indeed: emotional, commanding and really very well sung: I will never forget this. When Jill kissed him, he tried not to touch her and there was some sort of electricity going through his body. After that, he did something extremely wonderful: with his hands he told Christine to leave him, as if to say that she shouldnï¿½t stay with him and should go with Raoul. This really works, because it prepares the fact that later on he tells them to leave. Bravo Glyn !
He kept on crying and whispering ï¿½Noï¿½, and when he released Raoul, he didnï¿½t shout the ï¿½Goï¿½lines, but sort of ï¿½urgedï¿½ them to go, which was brilliant.
Then he knelt down next to the monkey and sang the Masquerade reprise and caressed the monkey and covered half of his face. Jill came back (very early, as Shona used to do as well) and she clearly didnï¿½t want to leave Glyn. He couldnï¿½t sing the very last words of ï¿½Christine I love youï¿½, as he was feeling so emotional, but I was crying as well, so it was brilliant. After she left, he picked up the veil (which was left somewhere in the back, near the portcullis) and knelt down, almost fainting and was crying with the veil in front of his nose and eyes. His very last lines were extremely powerful, really fantastic and only when he disappeared, I could stop crying as well.
Jill Washington is a very good Christine and itï¿½s very clear she has done the part before: not only because of the fact she looks a bit too old now for the role, but as well because she really proved she knew what she was doing and showed she understood the part of Christine. Sheï¿½s really a great actress and Iï¿½m very very pleased she took over from Shona Lindsay. Jillï¿½s ï¿½Think of Meï¿½ was very light (maybe thatï¿½s the only thing which is a pity with her voice: itï¿½s very soft and fragile in the big numbers) and very pure. Her last notes were very clear as well. Angel of Music was not bad and Amanda Light is back as well as Meg, so I enjoyed it very much. She really made something of the Title Song and during MOTN, she showed she was being hypnotized.
ï¿½All I ask of Youï¿½ has never been better at Her Majestyï¿½s (though the wonderful Nikki Ankara and Megan Kelly were not bad either), and Jill was very much in love here (not just trying to show off with her voice).
In the second Act she really did a nice job with ï¿½Twistedï¿½ and her ï¿½Wishingï¿½ was much better than Shonaï¿½s, though maybe a bit too soft. In the ï¿½Point of no Returnï¿½, she was not as sexy as Shona, but did some other things, which worked. During the Final Lair, she seemed very surprised by all the things Glyn did, and he did something very lovely at ï¿½His life is now the prize...ï¿½, which I canï¿½t really describe, but believe you me: go and see it yourself !
She really tried to hold Glyn when she kissed him, but he was so shocked he didnï¿½t know what to do (which was very natural). When she came back, she was crying and didnï¿½t want to leave him, so she stayed as long as possible and the ran of the stage. Sheï¿½s really very good indeed.
On Monday, I saw Mike Sterling again as Raoul, but he didnï¿½t change a bit from July. Funny thing is, he moves his hands and fingers like Phantom in MOTN all the time, especially in the Masquerade dancing (which is not right at all for Raoul), so I think heï¿½s really desperate to play the lead again, as heï¿½s only second understudy now... Chris Harley plays Raoul more in a funny way and itï¿½s more camp... I think heï¿½s better than Mr. Sterling, but I still like Mikeï¿½s voice more as Raoul.
Jasna Ivir was still playing Carlotta and I had to laugh so much with her. Apparently she had some ï¿½laughing problemsï¿½ as well on Monday (during Notes, Leo Andrew (Andre) said some joke to her and she really couldnï¿½t sing anymore and tried not to laugh, and Leo was trying to look into her eyes even more, so she really broke down; I had to laugh so much with this, but Iï¿½m sure 95% of the audience didnï¿½t notice it). On Wednesday I spoke to her at the stage door and sheï¿½s really very very funny in real life as well, and very nice and friendly. She even did some sort of cabaret for some German lunatics with a videocamera, which was hilarious...
There are some new cast members (a new Passarino (who thinks of himself being very funny in the Auction, when he claps his hands rather awkwardly: I didnï¿½t like it at all...).
The best thing was that I met Glyn twice in his dressing room, and I had an interesting conversation with him about Phantom and all sorts of things. Heï¿½s really very nice as a person and Iï¿½m certainly coming back again for his last night in the show, which should be sometime in March next year.
Review by Sven Verlinden (Mon. 13/07/98 and Wed. 15/07/98)
"At this performance the role of the Phantom will be played by John Capes".
"John who ?", you'll ask. Well, it is the same question I asked myself, when I had planned my trip to London to see Glyn Kerslake as the Phantom. John Capes wasn't even mentioned in the program, but I found out he had understudied Valjean on Broadway.
I was very disappointed not to see Glyn (I did not even see him 2 days later at the matinee), as I found out he was ill. John Capes isn't a real star, and he joined the London production only recently. I can tell you, it really showed !
His "Mirror" scene was very weak and he had no stage presence whatsoever. The title song wasn't bad, but I was somewhat distracted by Shona Lindsay's (Christine) wrong lipping of the recorded tracks. John's "Music of the Night" was very choreographed (it IS a number in which you don't have much artistic freedom as an actor, but this time it was very clear how the director had taught the movements). I noticed some hesitations in John's singing, which were ironed out a bit when I saw him again 2 days later. He still had obvious troubles with the high A flat notesï¿½
Speaking of the high notes: Shona's "Think of Me" wasn't good at all; in fact the finale to the song was more of a disappointment. Mike Sterling played Raoul on both occasions, which he did rather well, but he has the tendency to overact quite a bit, which sadly is also the case for Shona.
Meg was played by Natasha Knight, who does it rather good, but alas without any freshnessï¿½
On both performances the role of Andrï¿½ was played by swing John Langley (who has an American accent strangely!). It was clear he didn't play the role very often (as Mark Siney played it in September when I saw it; he's still in the cast thoughï¿½). Anyway, John played Andrï¿½ as a caring, sweet, father-like figure. I haven't seen it played like that yet, but I think it's not right for the part, as Andrï¿½ should be a little arrogant at times.
Carlotta was still played by the gorgeous Jasna Ivir, who tries to make the best out of the role. She truly desrves the "Brava's !" she got at the curtain call. David Hillman plays a neutral Piangi, with a fairly good high C.
I was a bit disappointed in Anthony Raffell's Firmin, as he loses a lot of the funny side of the part. A great improvement to last February's performance I saw, was Heather Jackson's Mme Giry, who has a magnificent voice and looks very mysteriously. Brava ! Now back to John Capes. His "I gave you my musicï¿½" was very weak, very unstable.
He was a bit better during the second act, but he still lacked the stage presence which a good Phantom must have, even when he's not on stage all the time.
On Monday's performance John Langley didn't catch the "Don Juan" score, which looked rather sillyï¿½
There were also some technical flaws during "Prima Donna", in which the 2 managers could hardly be heard due to microphone problems.
Shona's "Whishing" was remarkebly better than her other numbers. Does she think it's her key number in order to win the audience's sympathy ?? Or does she for once make the effort to sing beautifully ?? Anyway, "Wandering Child" was following, so one of the show's highlights started. John still lacked the ability to draw the focus on him, but overall the scene worked rather well.
For an actor playing Phantom, "Point of no Return" must be the real start of the show, since from that moment on he can start playing more at random. Sadly, John still moved quite in a stiff way, and Shona tried to bring some sexyness to the number (which seemed a bit over the top). In the Final Lair, John did some very 'incorrect' things. He didn't move gracefully (as a true Phantom should behave, who thinks of himself to be an aristocrat (I quote Peter Karrie here). John said the "I think my dear" lines so wrong in my opion of course.
Anyway, he truly went mad, but he lost the audience at this point. You couldn't feel any sympathy at all towards the character anymore. When Shona kissed him, he waved his arms as if he was flying in the air (which was awful !!!!). John, put that out !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mike Sterling looked very shocked, and moved his eyes in a funny way (I bet he was thinking the same as I was about John's armsï¿½) When John "released" Mike from the Punjab Lasso, he threw the 'candle' away, which surprised me ! On Wednesday, he just put it on the organ (I think he got some bad notes after Monday's performance). His last notes weren't bad at all, but he wept a bit too much for my tastes. Anyway, I'll have to come back to see Glyn Kerslake and I hope Jasna Ivir and Mike Sterling will remain in the cast, as I can't imagine it without them.
Review by Sven Verlinden (28th Feb 1998 )
I saw the show on saturday's matinee 28th Feb, mainly because I wanted to see Peter Cousens one last time. I had already seen him in September last year, and to be honest, I did like his interpretation then but I thought it wasn't as stunning as I had hoped it would be.
Now, when I stepped into the theatre, I was a nervous wreck, because I am a little superstitious about those people you WANT to see, and in the end DON'T GET to see... Anyway, I found out he WAS playing (YEESS!!), and the understudy Raoul (Chris Harley or something like that) was on too. As I'm probably not the only one who reads Nicola's reviews on the Phantom mailing list, you'll know she's seen that understudy too and I must say he IS as good as she says. He looks VERY young and blond !!! (which I haven't seen for a long time !). Shona Lindsay was on too, so I thought I would be enjoying the show.
Well, I had a great seat, up in the Dress Circle, the second row in the middle, so when the Overture started and the Chandelier came right before my eyes, well... I started crying ! Why ? Normally I'm not a person who cries very much with shows, but hey it was MY 10th Anniversary Perf in Phantom !
Jasna Ivir (one, if not THE best Carlotta ever) was playing but she had obvious trouble with her voice: her chest voice was very soar but her (magnificent) soprano voice was in a better state. I remember Nicola saying something about her eyes, and well: it's hilarious !!! She's constantly playing Carlotta and reacts to just EVERYTHING !!! The understudy Bouquet was on (again), but he isn't even mentioned in the programme (just an inlay with his name) STRANGE !! He was rather good actually !
Shona Lindsay is not my perfect Christine: I'm a fan of the Christine's who can reach some notes rather with there chest voice than simply going into the soprano voice. Shona is a lovely soprano, but it annoyed me a bit, for the reasons I just mentioned. Well, she's not BAD either: her Wishing was very good (especially her last note WHAAWW!!). She interacts with Peter very nicely and is very different than let's say e.g. Nikki Ankara, Megan Kelly or Josie Walker (just to name a few). When she's in the Lair, she at her best, and when she finally comes back to give HIM back his ring, well she came back MUCH earlier than the other Christines. She was there even before Peter was beginning to sing 'Masquerade'... It worked very well!!!
When his "Brava" was heard, it was very quiet in the audience (rather strange for a matinee !!) His Mirror was EXCELLENT ! Much better than in September, when it annoyed me a bit. Now it was violent, strong and yet very touching.
Onto Music of the Night. It was again VERY good !! He's really enjoying himself when he sings that !!! I had the feeling of shouting BRAVO !! And I think I did !!! His Angel was not as good as it could be (especially since I don't like it the way he doesn't shout Hahahahaha when the Chandelier falls).
His Wandering Child was brilliant !! I like it the way those Phantoms sing like Alexander Goebel on the Vienna CD. I can't explain it properly but the notes are different than e.g. on the Canadian CD. Well, Peter did it like Colm in September, and I didn't like it then. And NOW I wasn't expecting it to be great, when he suddenly sang it like Alexander !!! Yours truly burst into tears again !!!! PONR was again excellent and very sexy ! BTW, Passarino couldn't catch the apple when Carlotta threw it at him :-) Then to the Final (!) Lair. Peter was just so good. He was crying when Shona sang "...tears of hate" and whispered "No!". I was crying (again!).
They sang "Past all cries of help or love" very good (Chris also!!). Peter's last moments where thrilling and when he finally sang "It's over now.." I felt I had seen something special !
It was 50 % better than in September last year, and now he definitely is one of my favorite Phantoms.
Review by Sven Verlinden (Sept 97)
Last Monday, I went to see Phantom in London, with Peter Cousens, Josie Walker and Mike Sterling as the leads. I must say, they are probably all improvements when comparing to the previous cast, except for Megan Kelly, whoï¿½s one of my favorite Christines.
I was very excited to see P. Cousens, because I heard some good AND some bad things (most of them from Ali of course) about him. He IS much better than S. Bowman (a lot friendlier and he has a much wider vocal range for the part). But I must say, he hasnï¿½t the "star"quality of e.g. Peter Karrie, Crawford or the Dutch Henk Poort. I particularly liked the ï¿½newï¿½ things he added to the role (kneeling down when he gave the ring after PONR; crying and lying on the floor after he sent Christine and Raoul away; ...): those things were very touching and I hope to see them when I see future Phantoms.
Josie Walker was IMO a bit to old for the role, but her voice was very good indeed. Sheï¿½s not special, so sheï¿½s probably not someone you will remember for the rest of your life. From what Iï¿½ve been told, she must be a lot better than Myrra Malmberg, but I havenï¿½t actually seen her (only during her Cosette-run in Les Miz at the Palace).
Mike Sterling was an excellent Raoul, and he has a very good and beautiful voice; Iï¿½d love to see HIM as the Phantom, because in the program it said he had done that part already in Manchester for a few performances.
For the rest of the cast, I must say I missed the old Managers (Kevin Wainwright and Mark Wynter), and I didnï¿½t like the new ones. Jasna Ivir is still a heavenly Carlotta, and her acting improves more and more. Piangi was Patrick Togher, and what I heard from Christine Daaï¿½ he should be perfect, but was really horrible: I first thought it was an understudy, but it really WAS him. His top C was awful and he had obvious troubles with his voice during the performance; I noticed during the Hannibal that he told Jasna Ivir (in silence of course) that he had problems with his throat. I hope he gets better, because for the moment he shouldnï¿½t play Piangi !!
( Sven Verlinden)
( Aug 97 / Jscott96@aol.com )
I went to see "Phantom" in August of this past summer, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I had never seen this musical before, but I have studied the music from it for a few years, so I was very familiar as to how it should sound. In all honesty, I had placed this musical on such a high pedestal that I was afraid it would not meet my expectations. Once the overture started, though, I quickly corrected myself (sidenote: my third row center stall seats helped).
At first, I did not understand the prologue, and I thought the auction became a little monotonous. As soon as the chandelier came to life, though, the wonderful music of Andrew Lloyd Webber kicked in, and I knew that I was in for a great show.
Mike Sterling played the role of "Raoul." He had such a beautiful rich voice that clearly illustrated why he was chosen to play the romantic lead. Myrra Malmberg played the role of "Christine." Seeing as how I am used to hearing Sarah Brightman shout and shriek out the high notes of the popular songs of this musical, it was a welcome relief to hear someone who could actually hit the high first soprano notes with such ease and beauty. Malmberg had such obvious chemistry with her male co-stars that it actually seemed as though I was watching real people in a real life situation. Peter Cousens played the title role of "Phantom." He gave such an outstanding performance that I actually considered him better than the most famous Phantom, Michael Crawford. Cousens put so much emotion into his role and had such a calm yet commanding presence. I love hearing Michael Crawford sing from "Phantom," but at times, he even seemed to shout out some of his music. Like Malmberg,Cousens sang with ease and beauty and was a welcome relief playing this role.
As for the supporting cast, I thought that they were well rehearsed and properly prepared to take on such a "massive" musical. Jasna Ivir was absolutely intimidating in the role of "Carlotta," and my mouth dropped when I heard her vocal range. The roles of "Andre" and "Firmin" were played by Richard Halton and Anthony Raffell (respectively). They added a bit of humor to this otherwise dark and haunting musical, and I feel they were great.
All in all, I would highly recommend this play to anyone to see. I would especially recommend this cast. Everyone was extremely talented and showed tremendous dancing, singing, and acting abilities. Along with wonderful music, dazzling special effects, and mammoth sets, this musical offers a lot more than meets the eye.