Her Majesty’s Theatre, London
Romantic, gothic and lavish, it is no real surprise that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical has lasted so long. From the second the overture starts up, all the way through to the dramatic and powerful finale (made all the more special at this 30th Anniversary gala), the music and the quality of the performances make The Phantom of the Opera still a hugely (and deservedly) popular hit on the West End.
Shockingly, this was my first trip to see the show, and yes there were more than a few tears shed as I watched and listened to ‘All I Ask of You’ and ‘Music of the Night’ to name a few moments. Filled with one of the most beautiful scores that I have ever heard, The Phantom of the Opera is a story of love and obsession, as a lonely figure hides in the shadows of theParis Opera House disgusted with his appearance he becomes entranced by beautiful protégée Christine Daaé – who in turn falls for the handsome Raoul, leading to tragic events.
Harold Prince’s lavish production perfectly captures the glamour and sophistication of opera, while at the same time ensures the underlying tension and horror of what the phantom is capable of is never forgotten, all the while being held together by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rich and deeply affecting score and Charles Hart’s heartfelt and powerful lyrics.
One of the highlight moments is watching the Phantom down to his lair, during ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, watching the candles appear from nowhere and the illusion that they are riding across a lake is extraordinarily atmospheric. But equally as mesmerising is the scene in which the managers of the opera house and Raoul among others receive a succession of notes, both amusing as each accuse each other of sending them, but also sinister – knowing the phantom is watching their every move.
Yet there are some moments which could have been amped up in drama and theatricality, such as during the scene in which Christine visits her father’s grave – it was just lacking in action in a pivotal moment in the show.
Of course much of the success of the show depends on the strength on the three most central characters. Celinde Schoenmaker as Christine has a wonderful quality to her vocals that bursts out unexpectedly as during ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ and simply takes our breath away. Her portrayal of Christine as a character is charmingly sweet but ultimately naive and endearing.
Ben Forster as the Phantom is capable, but his characterisation particularly during the opening moments in which we see him can be slightly weak and not as convincing. Yet, as the show goes on and the phantom begins to lose patience, the way in which he slowly draws out his character’s madness and obsession is suitably sinister like – particularly in the climatic scene.
Meanwhile, Nadim Naaman as Raoul is suitably charming and likeable with vocals to match and the audience is more than capable of believing just how deep his love for Christine is.
The costumes are wonderfully over the top, while there is plenty of magic tricks to be enjoyed that thrill and delight in equal measures.
It was a wonderful production that is filled with all the drama and romance that you could possibly wish, but at times just lacking in enough intensity to make it truly compelling. But it is still a show that deserves at least another 30 years in the West End for the music and the story alone. Happy Birthday!
The Phantom of the Opera will continue to play at Her Majesty’s Theatre until at least 14th October 2017. To book tickets visit: Ticketmaster.co.uk, Discount Theatre.com,Last Minute.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Love Theatre.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk.