The Pride of West End: The Phantom of the Opera Reviewed
What is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera? A random person on the street would most likely tell you it’s a West End musical. Considering the fact that The Phantom of the Opera has been captivating audiences at Her Majesty’s Theatre for more than 30 years, it is not surprising that every Tom, Dick, and Harry knows about the show. But does West End’s iconic musical still hold the same euphoria it did when it first graced the stage?
The Phantom of the Opera is still joyous, wild, and simply majestic. Lloyd Webber’s score seems to enchant the theatre halls every time it’s played – its revelation set the standard and helped define the industry. Some may claim that the 80s synth-opera fusion is antiquated, but it’s hard to argue with the intricately woven blend of motif after motif – talk about an eargasm. Consider trademarks such as The Phantom’s composition, “The Point of No Return”.
If the show still attracts droves of fans in 2018, it’s hard to imagine the attention it garnered 3 decades ago when audiences were introduced to the West End masterpiece. From an elephant, fireballs, to the iconic set, it’s fascinating how the creative team managed to pull it off. Such is the audacity of the production that some of these elements seem to come straight from the set of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child or act as an inspiration to Bat out of Hell.
For the few that are not initiated in the wonderful world of The Phantom, it’s a classic narrative that tells the tales of a disfigured man, a phantom who lurks in the shadows of a Paris opera house. The man who was only considered an old wives’ tales was lured out of his sanctuary by the voice of a new chorus girl, Christine. Under the ‘tutelage’ of the Phantom, Christine gains the admiration of the producers and her old friend, Raoul.
In the fast-paced events of rekindling her love with Raoul and a triumphant performance, the Phantom reveals himself to her. This shifts the story from a tale of mystery and innocence to that of manipulation and jealousy.
The Phantom’s control over Christine is depicted in some detailed scenes that are arguably cringeworthy, especially with the current MeToo movement. This is encapsulated in the lyrics of “You will curse the day you did not do /All that the Phantom asked of you” – the alleged victims of Harvey Weinstein could probably relate to her situation.
The iconic roles originated by Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford are currently held by Kelly Mathieson (Christine) and Ben Lewis (The Phantom). Although the roles are highly demanding, the characters are able to command the stage and live up to the high standards set by their predecessors. Mathieson portrays a knack for nailing Christine’s challenging tunes while maintaining a naïve innocent demeanor. Lewis is simply a stage manifestation of the Phantom – menacing, commands the stage, and clears shows his character’s deluded pain.
The Phantom of the Opera is a West End icon, and deservedly so. It’s a standard-setting and record-breaking musical that still maintains the electrifying aura 30 years later – some things truly get better with age.