NOTE: There have been many cast changes since these reviews
Now the longest running show in the history of Her Majesty's Theatre, Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom Of The Opera" continues to wow audiences and cast its magical spell in dominating London's West End musical theatre! Many cast changes have taken place since its world premiere staging on 9th October 1986, from the unmistakable talents of the original London cast including Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman & Steve Barton to the many talented cast and often forgotten crew members who put the show through its paces at each performance, the show now enters it's 20th Anniversary year! (but why)?
The shows' success has often been discussed as to what makes this musical have such pulling power, my view is that Andrew Lloyd Webber has scored a high romantic tragic love story with such moving music and lyrics by Richard Stilgo & Charles Hart. The music, lyrics, set design (Maria Björnson), and story perfectly match each other. The scenes flow together seamlessly which is certainly attributed to the director Harold Prince, from Christeen Diae's dressing room to the Phantom's layer and into the manager's office and on to the grand stair case for Masquerade, this gives a very cinematic feel to the show.
I also believe the 2004 film version of "The Phantom of the Opera" has also generated more interest in the stage musical, and those people who would not normally go to the theatre have ventured to see what all the fuss is about "Bravo" it worked, and I feel although the score is more sumptuous in the film nothing can match the live performance! For those who have not seen "The Phantom Of The Opera" it is billed as "The Brilliant Original." The story revolves around a beautiful opera singer and a young composer shamed by his physical appearance, adapted from the novel by Gaston Leroux. There have been many incarnations of the story many films and stage shows none of which come close to this presentation of 'The Phantom of the Opera' it is indeed Brilliant. The original creative team and the current cast and crew deserve much praise as the show fast approaches its 20th birthday celebrations.
The current London cast including Earl Carpenter as "The Phantom" puts all the effort and enthusiasm and energy in performing this sensational show. The performances are all as good as I have seen but the true star is the sheer spectacle of watching this show live! The musical has done two regional UK tours, but is now playing exclusively at Her Majesty's Theatre, London and continues to play to capacity audiences. I would strongly urge anyone to see this staging of The Brilliant Original - The Phantom Of The Opera...
Now the longest running show in the history of Her Majesty's Theatre, Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom Of The Opera" opened to enormous success in October 1986 and has been running to capacity ever since, but can this musical still deliver?
My last encounter with "The Phantom Of The Opera" was at the Opera House Manchester in it's first run outside London's west-end in 1993. Having already seen the production five times in London and then four times in Manchester you could say that I really like the show.
Two actors had portrayed "The Phantom" during it's Manchester premiere. Dave Willetts who had previously played the role in London and he was the first actor I had seen in the role. Dave Willetts then opened the show at The Opera House in Manchester and then Mark Mckerracher who had played the role of Jean Valjean in (Les Miserable) for four years touring America and finally playing the role in London, he then took over the role of Phantom in Manchester to the end of its first run.
My wife and I called to the half priced ticket booth to see what was available for a Wednesday matinee, no tickets to Phantom were available and we decided to walk down to the theatre. We were offered top price seats in the stalls although I had seen the London production from various points in the theatre (stalls, Dress Circle & Upper Circle) I must say that I personally favour the stalls. As we entered the auditorium we were greeted with the setting for the auction.
For those who have not seen "The Phantom Of The Opera" it is now billed as London's most haunting love story. The story revolves around a beautiful opera singer played this time by Celia Graham and a young composer shamed by his physical appearance, adapted from the novel by Gaston Leroux.
Having not seen the show for a number of years I was thrilled to be seeing it for the 10th time. I am given to understand from box office staff the lead actor John Own-Jones had been with this production for a year. The performance started and my anticipation was in top gear, as the cords of the famous overture struck up with a huge flash the chandelier starting it's now trusted journey over the audience I was in heaven. I must confess I am an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan in fact it's his fault that my interest in theatre and live performance began.
So we were at the point of no return and the show was well underway, what can I say, the production is just as invigorating as when I first saw it 1989, although I did see some miss timings from the doubles used in Masquerade. The musical numbers are to me some of the finest ever written.
The scenes seamlessly flow together from Christeen Diae's dressing room to the Phantom's layer. Celia Graham's performance was wonderful her voice was really sweet and she looked as if she was enjoying every minute on the stage. Robert Finlayson played Raoul and at first I was not sure of him however my fears were short lived as he put in a solid performance as good as I had seen. Bruce Montague as Monsier Firmin & Robert Irons as Monsieur Andre worked very well together and gave great performances.
In this production it was Liz Robertson who was to play one of my favourite characters, Madam Giry. She put in a fine performance and I still love this character. Another character I really like is Carlotta played this time by Nan Christie who gave a more than convincing performance. A mention also to Hayley Driscoll who was great as Meg.
I have deliberately left John Owen-Jones until last, he gave a truly great and moving performance as "The Phantom" not an easy role to take on. His first appearance in the mirror scene was just so well done, through to the Phantom's layer and during the numbers like "The Phantom Of The Opera" and in particular "Music Of The Night" I felt total sadness for The Phantom..
To the second act and to the final curtain he keeps the audience transfixed with such a wonderful performance of such a wonderful show. As the cast took to the stage for their bows none was more deserved than John Owen-Jones he was brilliant!
I must say his performance had delivered the answer that I started this review with, the answer without question is "YES" this musical still delivers in every way "The Phantom Of The Opera" is a stage musical to kill for! and still the best on the West End Stage. So if you have not seen it, Go and get your tickets NOW! and remember the chandelier... I would suggest the best seating is front stalls row E, F or G Centre stage...