Phantom of the Opera
At Her Majesty’s Theatre
In the 25 years since Andrew Lloyd Webber's magnum opus first hit the West End, a thousand imitations have been and gone. It's been a long time. And yet, after more than 10,000 performances and 50 major theatre awards; having been performed in 145 cities worldwide, encompassing 27 different countries and 15 languages; having been seen by an estimated 130 million people, it seems Phantom's more popular than ever.
It's difficult to put your finger on what makes this one-of-a-kind show so accessible – what genuine opera has the same mass appeal? And yet, it boasts the same epic high-notes – and skirts, mouths and waistlines – as any found at the Royal Opera House, or indeed, the Opéra National de Paris, where Phantom is set. (Speaking of singing, we can't disguise our surprise that after all these years, the standard of vocals is still so impeccable; the powerhouse voice of Sofia Escobar particularly stands out in her role as Christine, our central damsel in distress). Granted, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s inspiration for the surreal came from more light-hearted sources such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but the story itself is just as dark and twisted as the French novel on which it is based: Le Fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux. Basically, enough to give children nightmares. It's a challenging story that is sometimes hard to follow because a lot of the dialogue is incomprehensibly sang at the tops of people's voices. All things considered, we don't quite know why, on the packed-out night GT visited, the kids were out in such force, but that they were.
The plot – as if you didn't know it already – focuses around the aforementioned Christine, whose rise to success as principal singer in the her opera house’s latest work is guided by her mysterious and horrifically disfigured teacher, the Angel of Music, who lives in the sewers of Paris. The masked stranger's unrequited love for Christine leads to some extreme behavior and the titular 'haunting' of the Paris Opéra. *Dives from falling chandelier*
There's a lot of competitiveness between West End shows to be bombastically spectacular without costing a bomb; Phantom does this extremely well, with some brilliant stunts and set and costume designs. Without coming across too tacky there was a sparing but fun use of pyrotechnics and other surprises that got a visible reaction from the audience. Particularly impressive was the wealth of intricate and colourful costumes on display at the opera house's masquerade ball (which the phantom promptly crashes), which launches the second act.
Even if you don’t count yourself as a huge fan of musicals you will find yourself singing along to the instantly recognisable music. In your head of course - it’s not the done thing to join in, although sing-along Phantom really should exist. The beautiful pieces Music of the Night and All I Ask of You are built up throughout the play, reaching fantastic goosebump-provoking climaxes that will stay with you for days after.
Overall, Phantom of the Opera is still amazing and hugely enjoyable spectacle, the only negative being one of the worst cases of lack of leg room we've ever come across. Less than your average Easyjet flight – we at GT literally couldn't fit ourselves in.
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