The Phantom of the OperaEach black tie dressed individual, glitterati or otherwise, who attended the opening night of the return production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera would attest that it is a sweetly intoxicating musical masterpiece. As the trade mark chandelier was hoisted to the ceiling of the Princess Theatre, the Paris Opera House, those who had previously witnessed the spectacle 17 years ago, were once again impressed. The trade mark organ overture accompanied by the live orchestra, conducted expertly by Vanessa Scammell, cued the musical romance and the mystery to begin.

Well known are the principal music numbers whose lyrics tell the tale of the Parisian 17th Century masked legend. Despite being stricken with the flu, Anthony Warlow’s vocal strength was audibly affected only twice as every inch of him reprised the leading role which the press describes as the performance which made his career in 1990. That brilliance remains.

It was a vocal tour de force when the Opera Ghost and his love, Christine Daaé played by debut performer Ana Marina, harmonised together in The Phantom of the Opera, I Remember/Stranger Than You Dream It, and Point of No Return. Individually, Warlow’s falsetto was stunning in Music of the Night, while Marina’s heartfelt Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again was unforgettable. The vocal prowess of the leading pair is matched strongly yet less powerfully by John Bowles who played Christine’s childhood friend and later fiancée, Raoul. Strong and humorous performances are given by John O’May and Derek Taylor in their respective roles of Monsieurs Firmin and André, and Jackie Rees as the stern ballet mistress, Madame Giry.

No expense has been spared on the numerous stage sets, lighting, special effects and pyrotechnics. Other than the crash of the chandelier at the end of Act One, another highlight is the Phantom appearing from the moving, mighty gold crest at the apex of the stage.  The space is cleverly manipulated for every scene, and the sound engineering of the Phantom’s warnings and whispers reverberating around the theatre is hauntingly effective. As expected, the costumes are lavish and extravagant, causing the audience to applaud in admiration of their craftsmanship in the opening scene of Act Two, being Masquerade.

The Phantom’s praise of ‘Bravi, bravi, bravissimi…’ after Christine’s rendition of Think of Me, unequivocally applies to this musical of all musicals. It should be witnessed by all.

The Phantom of the Opera
by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Venue: Princess Theatre
Dates: From 19 July (Tues – Sun)

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