The Phantom of the Opera
Palace Theatre, Manchester
Until Saturday, May 19
THE Phantom of the Opera is one of the world’s best loved musicals, and so any new production comes with an element of risk. With so many expectations riding on it, and far from its London home, could this touring production live up to its own formidable reputation?
Happily, any minor changes (the famous chandelier does not actually come crashing down, due, perhaps to the logistical difficulties of a touring production) are more than made up for by the quality of the performances from an outstanding cast.
John Owen-Jones is magnificent and heartbreaking in his doomed love for the beautiful Christine. His portrayal of the Phantom is not as a cartoon villain, but as a very real, if very troubled, man, with a human heart too often crushed by the reactions to his deformed face, which makes Christine’s fearful longing for him more believable. His voice resonates around the theatre with hair-raising power, but he is also capable of moments of quiet, almost broken, introspection.
Katie Hall’s performance as Christine Daae shows impressive range, from the shy chorus girl to the stunning star, taking in love and despair and balancing the dark and light which battle within her. As Raoul, Simon Bailey conveys a strongly-held honour and simple belief in right that neatly offsets Owen-Jones’ complexity.
Phantom is full of huge songs — Angel of music, The Music of the Night, All I Ask Of You — but it is in the second half when the emotion is really ramped up with the less hummable, but more poignant Wishing You Were Here Again, while the flamenco-styled The Point of No Return shows a darker side to Christine, as she finds herself pulled between her sunny and straighforward lover, and the dark and dangerous “angel”.
The set is spectacularly clever, particularly as the Phantom and Christine descend to his lair down steps which slide noiselessly out of a wall. The look of the production is fantastic, and it is little surprise to see choreographer extraordinaire Matthew Bourne’s name attached. Fans of this much-loved show, or those who have never had the opportunity to see it, are advised to catch this sumptuous production while they can.