In its 34th year of delighting audiences in the West End, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom Of The Opera embarks on a major UK tour.
Opening at Curve, Leicester, audiences were bewitched from the very first note to the powerful standing ovation. The angel of music had taken their breath and captured their hearts.
Transported to a grandeur 19th century Parisian opera house, adorned with golden arches and royal boxes, and of course, an exquisite chandelier, The Phantom Of The Opera opens with the company in rehearsals of their latest opera, Hannibal.
The scene is wonderfully gluttonous. Warm orange light and fantastically over-the-top costumes make an all-consuming introduction to the spectacular nature that the production is so widely heralded for. We meet resident prima donna, Carlotta (Saori Oda), a tour de force of the soprano with a presence as striking as her voice.
When the opera's leading lady is injured on-stage, the ballet chorus whisper\ in panicked fear of the phantom’s presence. With a full house waiting to be entertained, it is the ballet mistress, Madama Giry (Francesca Ellis), who offers Christine Daaé (Holly-Anne Hull) to the role, citing her recent tuition by a disfigured and lonely musical genius who haunts the depths of the Opera House. The Phantom (Killian Donnelly) has fallen fiercely in love with Christine and spirals into chaotic jealousy to take reign of the story and how it will play out, on and off stage.
Classic and timeless, Lloyd Webber’s score continues to triumph, sending chills and raising goosebumps with every pitch-perfect trill and epic string sequence. Coaxing emotion from every fiber of the being, the iconic score is stirring. The delicacy of "The Music Of The Night" and "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again", hypnotic and sweet, collides with the urgency of the title song.
Taking centre stage to perform, "Think Of Me", Holly-Anne Hull is enchanting and every ounce a star. Her portrayal of Christine is naive, doe-eyed and beautifully elegant with a courageous streak. Passing through the mirror to meet her "Angel Of Music", the bountiful passion between she and Killian Donnelly as Phantom is absolutely majestic.
Rhys Whitfield as Raoul, Viconte de Chagny is delightful and sincere; his vocal and charm conventionally attributed to princes and heroes, that makes and breaks hearts.
The Phantom Of The Opera never fails to wonder. Maria Bjornson’s production design has been adapted by Matt Kinley and Gillian Lynne’s musical staging and choreography recreated and adapted by Chrissie Cartwright. In combination, the tour is impressive and awe-inspiring. The ballet company led by the innocent but brave Meg (Ellie Young), are elegant and beautiful, and the ensemble numbers mesmerising with impeccable timing and togetherness.
The many layers to its central characters and their stories make this musical irresistible and create amazing landscapes to explore. Inside the opera house, "Masquerade" is a feast of colour and class, and a rich, fabricated reality of inclusivity and solidarity. By contrast, we are lured through the dark winding corridors of the opera house, to the silent fogged night on the gothic rooftops, and led by candlelight on a boat to cross the river in to Phantom’s forbidding lair. Inside are ornaments as remnants of a past of mistreatment, sorrow and solitude whilst living as an outsider.
The Phantom of the Opera really does reside in your mind, and long may he reign.