People always told me that if I really loved musicals, I had to see Phantom of the Opera but I must admit that I have never felt that it was my sort of thing. But I found myself with a free evening and thought that I would give it a go. With a good deal from TKTS, I arrived at the Her Majesty’s theatre knowing that I was going to see a spectacle. I had seen snippets here and there, from televised performances to West End Live so I had an idea of what to expect.
And a spectacle it was. The set, the costumes and the special effects are amazing and grand and I can understand why it has been running for the last 30 years. But, if I had to choose between Phantom and London’s other famous long runner Les Miserables, I would choose Les Mis.
The problems for me started when I found that I was struggling to keep up with the story through the songs. Having been a fan of Les Mis for years, I thought I was going to able to manage keeping up when lots of people are singing different lines to the same song, but not here. I was alright until ‘Prima Donna’. When it was just Carlotta (Charlotte Vaughan) it was great as I can’t fault her performance at all with her incredible voice and range, but once the other five characters joined in, I couldn’t hear the lyrics well enough to understand what was being said. Sadly this was the case for a number of the songs featuring multiple vocalists.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the only issue for me. I have always thought that there is a difference between a show being long and a show feeling long. And Phantom felt long. It was just that I knew where it was heading but it seemed to be taking an awful long time to get there particularly in act 2. It doesn’t take long to realise the moment in which the phantom takes control over Piangi, so why does it take so long for it to be revealed?
Also, what happened to good behaviour in the theatre? Out of the four shows I saw in this week, only one didn’t have any bad behaviour in the audience. Within 15 minutes of the show starting, at least three people around where I was sitting had left their seats. I didn’t see them come back. There was a lot of fidgeting in general, and whispering. Not to mention the use of cameras. The poor ushers spent the entire interval holding up signs saying no photographs but people were still taking pictures of the set. Plus, one lady in the row in front of mine filmed Masquerade. Excuse me, but not only is that against copyrighting laws but the cast can see that light of your phone and I’m sure that it is incredibly distracting.
On the plus side, vocally the show was amazing. I can not fault any of the singing. The show has such a range up to the highest notes I’ve ever heard in a show and they were all perfect. ‘Think of me’ and ‘Wishing you were some how here again’ were highlights for me along with ‘Music of the night’. Ben Forster played a wonderfully creepy phantom (very strange for me as the last time I saw him, he was playing Buddy the Elf), yet was still able to show his softer side in his heartbreak and final decisions. Celinde schoenmaker was also wonderful as Christine with her incredible vocals. Special mentions must also be given to Nadim Naaman as Raoul and Daisy Hubert as Meg.
The costumes and sets were amazing. So much so that there was a collective gasp of awe when the set opened up to reveal masquerade in the opening of act two. The sets were extremely grand to match the costumes and are some of the most intricate and complex costumes I have seen on the West End stage. The special effects were something to behold, ranging from the magical candle covered lake to the magically disappearing phantom and of course that famous chandelier. You can’t deny the work that goes into bringing this show to the stage.
In conclusion, I am glad that I took a chance to went to see Phantom of the Opera. It is an amazing spectacle to behold despite the little things that I had issues with. It is clear to see why it has been running for so long and why it continues to pull in the audiences. The cast is amazing and the staging wonderful. I just wish that it didn’t feel so long and that I found it easier to follow in places.