Monday, 3 October 2011

The Phantom of the Opera is here

Anyone else love this story? Or the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical? I confess I saw the musical first, but I still love Gaston Leroux's original book.

Well, as you probably already know, the musical of Phantom is celebrating its 25th anniversary in London this year. Yep, it's been 25 years since it opened at Her Majesty's theatre with Sarah Brightman as Christine and Michael Crawford as the Phantom. To celebrate, a production - specially designed for the Royal Albert Hall - took place over the weekend. Sunday's evening performance was also broadcast live in cinemas across the UK.

I was lucky enough to get a ticket to Saturday night's performance, and it was stunning! I've been to several performances of Phantom, but this was definitely the first of its kind. For one, I'd never been to a performance with a camera in the seat next to me before!

Also, I was expecting a concert - something like the Les Mes 25th anniversary celebration - but it was a fully-fledged production of Phantom! It was so exciting to walk into the stalls and see the stage decked out in a similar fashion to how it appears at Her Majesty's. However, for anyone who knows the Royal Albert Hall, you'll know it doesn't have a "stage" as such, which meant everything was designed and built specially for this performance.

The set designer, Matt Kinley based his designs on Maria Bjornson's original creations for Her Majesty's theatre, where Phantom still plays. They made use of screens - both at the back of the stage, and integrated into the main area, to show different scenery (such as the old curtains rising during the overture when the theatre is restored to its former glory). They even had a chandelier, hovering high over the arena audience!

I thought it was an amazing performance, with a huge cast putting everything they had into it. It was also an audience-immersive performance, with cast members coming through the audience, and cameras trained on the audience, so we could see ourselves at the end of the "Think of Me" number.

At the end, Andrew Lloyd Webber appeared, to a massive round of applause, closely followed by Cameron Mackintosh, the production team, and the Royal Albert Hall's production team. It was also nice to see Charles Hart - the man responsible for Phantom's beautiful lyrics.

There were so many sections of the production I thought they couldn't possibly do, but even the boat made an appearance and seemed to behave itself.

Besides some slight issues with the sound near the beginning, and a particularly stubborn piece of wrapping that refused to remove itself from an ornamental item when the theatre was restored during the Overture (this, despite the concerted attempts of a cast member), I can't praise the production enough.

The atmosphere was amazing, the performances spine-tingling, and the scenery awe-inspiring. What a fitting celebration for Phantom's 25th birthday!

Anyone else there? Or saw the live broadcast at the cinema? Has anyone seen any productions in other countries?


Cherie Reich said...

The Phantom of the Opera was the first musical I saw and the only one so far on Broadway (NYC, NY). I absolutely love it, but I love the book even more. Have you read Susan Kay's PHANTOM? It's an awesome book and follows Erik's life from birth to death.

C D Meetens said...

I have read Susan Kay's "Phantom" - I love that book! The way she writes the character of Erik... And that line about the kiss ("Such a little thing..."). I don't know how many times I've read it, but it's definitely one of my favourites.

AmieSalmon said...

I am lucky enough to work at the hall, so me and a friend went to watch the dress rehersal of the first act.
I too thought it would just be a concert type, so I was so happily surprised when it was a full production. Even from what I saw it was amazing, something so special. I am definitely going to buy the dvd.

C D Meetens said...

Wow, you work there? It's such a beautiful building! That must have been amazing to see the dress rehearsal. It's still got that "behind the scenes" air, which I find really interesting. I'm definitely buying the DVD too.

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