Douglas Mayo reviews Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom Of The Opera 25th Anniversary Production at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011 streamed on YouTube as part of The Shows Must Go On.
The Phantom Of The Opera – 25th Anniversary Production
Royal Albert Hall, London
Streamed via YouTube
When Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber set about redefining the modern musical through world-class productions and marketing and promotions on a level usually reserved for major movies, I don’t think that either foresaw the fact that their collaborations would survive and be entertaining nearly 35 years on. The hunt to find the perfect lyricist saw a young Charles Hart together with Richard Stilgoe deliver a libretto that perfect balanced Andrew’s score for this most romantic musical.
When The Phantom Of The Opera was nearing its 25th Anniversary, Cameron Mackintosh proposed an enormous celebration of The Phantom Of The Opera at The Royal Albert Hall. This would be no normal concert presentation, the nature of the show and the way in which it had originally been staged by Hal Prince, Gillian Lynne and with the extraordinary sets and costumes of Maria Bjornson, meant something of a very special nature and what many of you saw last night was the result.
Retaining many of the iconic elements of Maria Bjornson’s original set design and clever use of projection production designer Jon Driscoll and set designer Matt Kinley together with lighting Tsars Andrew Bridge and Patrick Woodroffe created a new place for the Phantom to wreak havoc and on a concert platform no less!
A large part of the Phantom’s magic lies in its majestic score and this concert gave Andrew Lloyd Webber and co-orchestrator David Cullen a chance to take this score and really show it off. The Phantom Of The Opera boasts the largest orchestra the West End but for this orchestration, it was bolstered to an incredible 48 musicians under the baton of Anthony Inglis and I doubt you will ever hear better. Many who read my reviews know I am a sucker when it comes to musicals, to have real instruments, particularly when it comes to strings and here with crystal clear sound by Mick Potter, the score sparkled.
Ramin Karimloo reprised the role of The Phantom, a role which he had played in both The Phantom Of The Opera and Love Never Dies to perfection. With a gorgeous tenor baritone, incredible subtlety and high drama that can only be achieved through the magic of the filmed close up, it was a joy to see these performances as never before. It gave new dimensions to the scenes between the Phantom and Christine played on this occasion by Sierra Boggess. There was stage chemistry here, so important for that moment when Christine first unmasks the Phantom but then surprisingly out of compassion hands the mask back. Musical numbers including Music Of The Night and Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again right down the final lair scene were simply sublime.
Combine these two with Hadley Fraser’s Raoul and you have the perfect love triangle, and watching All I Ask Of You through to the Phantom’s retort is pure musical theatre magic. It was wonderful to see Barry James and Gareth Snook play Firmin and Andre, the two theatre managers who quickly realise that they are out of their depth. With Wendy Ferguson and Wynne Evans as Carlotta and Piangi, numbers like Prima Donna were a joy to behold.
There are wonderful moments in Gillian Lynne’s original staging reminiscent of Degas’ ballerinas that have been retained here, but it is the backstage workings of the Opera Populaire from Liz Robertson’s starchy Madame Giry to Nick Holder’s Joseph Buquet that make this production. Nothing has been spared and much love given to transferring this extraordinary musical to an extraordinary venue. Even the enlarged Corps de ballet and the addition of Sergei Polunin from the Royal Ballet made this an event that I hope many of you will have enjoyed as much as I did.
The special encores featuring Sarah Brightman and Phantom’s from around the world including Peter Joback, John Owen-Jones, Anthony Warlow, Colm Wilkinson, Michael Crawford and the original London cast were simply icing on the cake.