The Phantom Of The Opera – A Theatrical Review
“Feast you eyes, glut your soul upon my cursed ugliness” these are the words emanated from the mouth of the Phantom as his mask is torn from his face. This dialogue so perfectly encapsulates the tone of this gothic myth and makes ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ one of the most moving, powerful, frightening, magical and romantic musicals ever adapted for the theatre.
The Phantom Of The Opera, based on the novel by Gaston Leroux was created for the theatre for Andrew Lloyd Webber and began its first run on October 9th 1986 at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
The actors treading the boards on that particular evening were Michael Crawford (The Phantom) and Sarah Brightman (Christine). Little did anyone involved in the production realise the success and critical praise the production would garner over the next two decades. The musical itself has been the recipient of numerous awards including, Best Musical, Best Actor and Featured Actress in the New York Tony Awards and critical theatrical acclaim does not come more noteworthy than that.
The story is set in the haunted Paris Opera House. It follows a disfigured and masked musical genius who, acting as an apparition influences a young and beautiful understudy (Christine) when she is given the opportunity to sing the lead. Christine amazes the cast with her vocal abilities, due mostly in part to the teachings of The Phantom and she soon attracts a handsome suitor and childhood friend Raoul. As Raoul and The Phantom battle for possession of her heart and soul the fate of the Paris Opera House hangs in the balance.
The Phantom Of The Opera is a macabre tale of the emotional, all consuming saving grace of love. Andrew Lloyd Webber seems to have an innate feeling for the Victorian theatricality of the story and demonstrates this in the melodramatic overture, with it’s thrilling organ chords, the seductive ‘Music Of The Night’ and the yearning of ‘All I Ask Of You’.
Beginning with a humorous pastiche of a 19th century operetta the plot expands into a gorgeous extravaganza as The Phantom conducts Christine to his subterranean lair and then appears as the Red Death during the second act’s masquerade. As of pivotal importance to the story The Phantom does not reveal his true facial features until the climax of the musical.
The music is astounding. It so completely encapsulates the narrative of the story and fills the theatre with all the romance, obsession and passion of the story.
The Phantom Of The Opera also provides a ghoulishly beautiful visual feast. The sumtuous sets and special effects are simple, though elegant and effective. The falling of the chandelier at the climax of the first act gave the desired effect of foreboding. The sets easily transport you into the world of Christine and The Phantom. The scenery is beautiful and the transition between scenes was smooth. The audience are enraptured with the Paris Opera House one moment and next were lead deep into the ominous chasm of The Phantom’s dwelling.
The costumes are gorgeous and perfectly fit the characters distinct personalities in the musical. Christine looks every bit the beautiful songstress of 19th Century France and The Phantom looks as deliciously nightmarish as you would expect. They further acclimate the audience to the world portrayed in front of their eyes and ensure complete theatrical escapism.
‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ is a superior musical not to be missed. It is certainly one where ‘the music of the night’ should long be played for many moons to come.