By Emily Couch
LONDON, England – The 25thanniversary return of the phenomenal best-selling musical Phantom of the Opera had to be one of the most anticipatedtheatrical events in the last decade – and I was there.
In case you’ve missedit, the Phantom of the Opera is thestory of a mysterious masked man in the depths of the Paris Opera House whofalls in love with a beautiful young soprano called Christine Daae.
The masked man is knownby all as the “Opera Ghost” and is the unseen master of all the goes on underthe roof of the Opera Populaire and thus the bane of the lives of the newmanagers and prima donna, Carlotta Giudicelli.
Trouble starts whenChristine’s childhood sweetheart, Raoul Vicomte de Chagny turns up on thedoorstep and the two men engage in an epic battle to win her love. Who does Christine choose? I’ll leave that for you to guess.
Phantomhad its debut in Her Majesties’ theatre in London’s West End in 1986 when itforged an unbreakable, intangible, magical bond with the audience that not eventhe composer could explain.
The Music of the Nighthas been enchanting audiences ever since.
For an avid “Phan” – the rather corny name ascribed to all those whoworship at the shrine of Phantom – the event was rather like being theproverbial kid in a candy shop.
You end up staring around you in absolute awe not knowing whether to diginto the scrumptiously stellar cast or the luxurious dark-chocolate-y set andcostume design. So you end up gorging yourself on both.
Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess led the cast as the Phantom andChristine. The dynamic duo had recently starred together in Love Never Dies, the Phantom sequel, as their respective rolesso seeing them together in the original was a real treat.
They have an undeniable chemistry on stage which created an almosttangible heat, which added to the already tropical climate of the Royal AlbertHall.
Karimloo’s voice has to be heard to be believed. It has a remarkablestrength and power which makes it perfect for the role of the imposing andomnipotent Phantom.
Sierra was a true angel of music. For me, she is Christine Daaepersonified. I fell in love with her in LoveNever Dies, so seeing her perform in the original was a dream.
Her voice soared and dived through the music with her beautifulcoloratura shining through. The operatic training she underwent for herrecent Broadway stint in Master Classhelped her voice to sound even more perfect for the young ingénue of the ParisOpera!
Her finest moment was without a doubt her breathtaking rendition of“Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.”
What I would give to be able to sing like her! It is abundantlyclear why Andrew Lloyd Webber chose her specifically for first Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular then Love Never Dies and now Phantom 25th.
These celebrations firmly established her as a star of the West End aswell as Broadway.
As for the chorus, well, they were the cream of the West End. Stars includedSofia Escobar, Robyn North, Simon Bailey and Earl Carpenter, among manytalented voices.
“Drink it in, drink it up, ’til you drown in the lights in the sound…”the line from Masquerade is an aptway to describe Phantom’s phenomenalset and costume. The creative team did an admirable job of recreating theset in the Albert Hall.
If one were to be picky, the signature chandelier crash was missed butthe fireworks did compensate somewhat.
Jon Driscoll, who seems to have the monopoly on the projections of WestEnd shows, did a great job of transferring Maria Bjornson’s set design onto ascreen.
Fittingly, the costumes were all done to Maria Bjornson’s beautifuldesigns. I’m sure she would have been proud to see her masterpieces celebratetheir 25th year.
The cherry on top of the afternoon was without a doubt the finale and guestappearances.
Despite tears streaming down my face through out, I don’t think it waspossible for me to enjoy it more than I did. I am not the easily“gob-smacked” sort but I must say my jaw did drop a few inches when Lord LloydWebber made his appearance.
I found out that, yes, he really does breathe the same air as we mereaudience members.
Seeing him join Cameron Mackintosh, Gillian Lynne and Charles Hart onstage was surreal. I could not believe it when Sarah Brightman came centerstage (adoringly introduced as “My Angel of Music” by Webber) and sang “Phantomof the Opera” with John Owen Jones, Colm Wilkinson, Anthony Warlow and PeterJobak.
I wished my ears and eyes could record that truly beautiful moment!
All in all, Phantom25 was an unforgettable experience. I want to say a massive thank you toAndrew Lloyd Webber for creating such a magnum opus of musical theatre.
I think we can safely say that contrary to the Phantom’sline in the final lair, the Music of the Night is not over, it is only justbeginning.