“There are worse things than a shattered chandelier”
I’ve been blogging here for a handful of years now, but I’ve never quite made it to The Phantom of the Opera in that time (I think I saw it last in 2002). Probably because it has that ‘old faithful’ air about it, especially to those of us who live in London, but also because its enduring popularity means that there’s rarely any ticket deals around for the show. Perhaps with an element of that in mind, the decision to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the show represented the perfect opportunity to finally revisit as tickets were most reasonably priced at £19.86 and £30.
And I’m glad I got to go again. There’s undoubtedly a hoary quality to certain aspects of the show (the synth sound will never become a classic one…) but by and large, it is looking and sounding in pretty good shape for a 30 year old. This feels mainly down to the electric charge that comes from Ben Forster and Celinde Schoenmaker’s lead performances as The Phantom and Christine Daaé. There’s a refreshing, almost raw, emotional energy to their connection, manifesting itself in powerfully interpreted vocals, especially in ‘The Music of the Night’ and ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ respectively.
As third wheel in their relationship Raoul, Nadim Naaman contrasts well with his more classical turn, and it is this love triangle – more than anything, I think – that keeps people coming back to Harold Prince’s production, though the multitudinous surprises of Maria Björnson’s design also maintain a certain thrill. And as befitting a gala performance, there were thrills aplenty in the post-show finale with paid loving tribute to the casts and creatives who have preserved the Phantom brand as it has gone literally worldwide, garnering incredible statistics as one of the longest-running shows on both Broadway and in the West End.
Thus we were treated – after being given a glass of free fizz to cover the waiting time – to special guest performances from Michael Ball, flirting and duetting with all and sundry in a hilarious ‘All I Ask Of You’, Sierra Boggess – scheduled to play Christine in Phantom’s French-language debut in Paris, currently delayed because of a fire in the theatre *cough* curse *cough* – delivering a sensational bilingual ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’, and then a group rendition of the title track involving Icelandic dreamboat Garðar Thór Cortes (who’ll play Phantom in Paris), John Owen-Jones and the current company’s Scott Davies alongside Forster, Boggess and Schoenmaker. Delicioso!
Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd-Webber gave us some good banter beforehand, reminiscing about the trials of mounting the original production, and we ended with a raucous ‘Masquerade’ which brought on several alumni from previous productions and then ultimately members of the original company including Michael Crawford, hot-footing it over from the final week of The Go-Between just up Shaftesbury Avenue. So a fun evening altogether, special of course in marking the occasion (and supporting The Music in Secondary Schools Trust in the process) but also notable in debunking much of my cynicism. If you’ve been thinking about booking to Phantom for the last however many years, you could do a hell of lot worse than getting in now to see Forster, Schoenmaker and Naaman knock it out of the opera house.