On Saturday 19 May, the Phantom of the Opera UK Tour played its final night at the Palace Theatre in Manchester to a full house. It was also the last night of my honeymoon... what a way to celebrate! As a lover of all things musical theatre, Phantom has always been the one that got away from me – so this show saw the end of a long 20-year wait!
As Phantom celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, the current tour has been given a complete new look: with changes to the staging, costumes and choreography. The staging was intricate and clever and the set changes were well thought out. For once, the use of technology added to, rather than taking away from, the production; in particular as we followed the characters through the hidden passages under the theatre.
Before I go into detail about the show itself, let me sum up by saying I was totally blown away. As a rule, I don’t like to read the score or story of musicals I’ve not yet seen live, but an old singing teacher had encouraged me to learn a couple of Christine’s numbers. I was worried that knowing some of the music so well would stop me from enjoying the production as a whole, but the cast were so engaging, that together with all the other visual aspects, and of course the outstanding live orchestra, I was absolutely lost in the magic of the Opéra Populaire, and I would highly recommend that you grab one of the few remaining tickets for the rest of the tour.
We were very lucky with the cast – an outstanding leading man in John Owen Jones topped the bill as the Phantom, but the rest of the cast by no means should be ignored; Katie Hall as Christine and Simon Bailey as Raoul also shone. I was particularly impressed by the development of Katie’s voice within the performance, especially throughout her first number ‘Think of Me’, ably portraying the growth in Christine’s confidence and her emotional journey. Her touching monologue sung at her father’s grave was truly heartbreaking, and demonstrated the young talent being seen in theatres today. Overall, the chemistry in the duets between Katie and her two leading men was wholly believable, meaning that none of Christine’s decisions or choices ever felt like they should be questioned.
The choreography of the large production number of ‘Masquerade’ was truly breathtaking. Helped by the mirrored set and the white gloves, the idea encapsulated in the song of a man wanting to hide in plain sight was beautifully played out, and the ensemble cast sang with such power and pure tone that you couldn’t help but get caught up in the music.
The comedy offered by Angela M. Caesar as La Carlotta and Vincent Pirillio as Ubaldo, as well as Andy Hockley and Simon Green as the Opéra’s new owners, provided a stark contrast to the depth of pain shown by John Owen Jones as the Phantom. The amount of emotion in John’s voice was at times uncomfortable, just how it should have been. In my opinion, he struck a perfect balance between the vulnerable tortured soul and the evil hidden inside. The complete silence in the theatre during his final number, followed by a full standing ovation, was a testimony to the intensity and passion of John’s performance.
The Phantom of the Opera was a rollercoaster journey of emotion; anger and sympathy, laughter and tears. I’d like to see it again now, please!
For the rest of the UK Tour dates, and information on cast changes, log on to http://www.thephantomoftheoperatour.com/