Oh. My. Gosh!
Regular readers of my blog will know that I am something of a musical theatre obsessive, however, tonight was my first time seeing The Phantom Of The Opera actually on a stage in front of me (a shocking revelation, right?!). I came out of the performance this evening and I was actually shaking. Seriously. Despite all my years of amassed musical knowledge, and the vast range of productions that I’ve sat through in my time, I can hand on heart say that The Phantom Of The Opera has totally revolutionised and changed the way that I think about musical theatre, just at a time when I though there was nothing more that could really excite me at present. Even in its 26th year, it still holds that magical power, and you really have to see the show before you to appreciate the true beauty and spectacle of this absolute masterpiece!
The production appears to have benefited well from the 25th Anniversary Royal Albert Hall production, though I really must stress that watching the DVD of this alone is simply not enough!
The staging itself was absolutely BREATHTAKING. We had the benefit of being in row H of the stalls, and so everything appeared ‘seemless’ and my eyes popped out of their sockets several times – especially during the Lair scenes, which were even more fantastic than I’d previously seen on the DVD or in photos in books etc. We were also directly under the chandelier, and I tell you now, when that bad-boy is hurtling towards you (they’ve sped it back up again now) then you instinctively duck for cover and yelp a little bit! Amazing!
I was fortunate to be taken to the show by my pal Paul, who actually saw the very original cast, in its first ever week – how amazeballs is that?! He was very surprised to find that absolutely nothing has really changed in the time since – something which amazes me, as the production looks so fresh, and, even now, 26 years on, it is still able to blow my mind, despite all I’ve seen on the stage before! I cannot imagine just how revolutionary this must have been back in 1986.
The orchestra was simply devine. I had goosebumps throughout the production; not just where I normally look for them (Overture, and The Phantom Of The Opera), but in parts of the score where I never usually get them! Absolutely nothing compares to hearing this score played live, and, though the word ‘masterpiece’ is bandied about a lot with this show, it is a very suitable word. This score is one of the ones that really made me get into musical theatre as a kid and regard Andrew Lloyd Webber so highly (I even used to help moderate the official RUG and Phantom message boards), and I genuinely cannot think of another score which moves me as much as this one does.
The ultimate treat was that the Phantom is currently played by musical theatre stalwart Earl Carpenter. For those who read regularly, you’ll know that this is going to be my last West End show for quite some time, as I’m moving back to Manchester on Saturday, and so Phantom was the one show that I desperately needed to see before I went, and, prior to tonight, Earl Carpenter was the only West End legend that I had yet to see before me on a stage. That the two massive desires that I had desperately wanted to fulfil prior to my leaving the West End behind (a massive deal for me!) were made true on the same night will stay with me forever I think (also in keeping with the advertising strap line ‘remember your first time…’ too, ha!). It was made even better as I didn’t even know that Earl Carpenter had returned to the show in advance of my attendance this evening – I only found out at the end! (I had a bit of a Phantom style revelation myself it seems haha!)
Several times, and owing to our proximity to the stage, I found myself staring right into the Phantom‘s eyes, and he chilled me to the core – I had to keep breaking my gaze! The depth of emotion that Earl Carpenter was able to convey was magnificent, and I’m not ashamed to say that come the end of the show, I was in floods of tears! Such a beautiful performance.
Sofia Escobar as Christine was an absolute find. I may get shouted down for saying this, but her voice was even more perfect, for me, than that of Sarah Brightman, who the role was written specifically for! Perfect look for the role, an astonishing voice for someone who is fairly fresh to the wider world of musical theatre, and I really hope that she stays with the production for a long time.
Killian Donnelly as Raoul was fabulous. Raoul is that slightly simpering second male lead role that I usually find it hard to attach to in a musical, however in this case, Donnelly totally grabbed Raoul and gave him a decent pair of bollocks, and completely sold the role to me! Really enjoyed his performance.
I cannot discuss the cast without mentioning Wendy Ferguson’s Carlotta – I genuinely cannot imagine anyone more suited to the role. A gorgeous voice, a fantastic way of portraying the role, and I love just watching her, even if she’s not in the foreground. She’s secretly my favourite!
You only have to flick through the programme to see what a wealth of musical theatre royalty is in the current cast – everyone has really fabulous experience in the field, with many people previously appearing in significant roles that I really look up to!
I genuinely, genuinely cannot implore you enough to go and see this show, I guarantee that you will not regret it. I’m not normally a fan of the premium seating model, however for this show, I would definitely recommend those seats, and in fact, for the 25th Anniversary touring production, soon to be in Manchester, I am insisting that Max and I splash out on the premium seating!
I thought that no musical could ever affect me in such a significant way again – I thought that I’d seen all that the West End had to offer, and was ready to face the final curtain, and retire a contented man; especially as I thought I knew what I was getting tonight. However, seeing this show, in the ‘flesh’, has totally reignited the passion that I have for musical theatre, and I now find myself wishing that I could see this show a couple more times before I leave; if only!! For a show to do this, and totally blow my mind, it has to be worth a look, right?
The Phantom Of The Opera is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre, and stars Earl Carpenter as The Phantom up until 17th March 2012. For further information, and to book tickets, please visit the show’s official webpage.