Escapism at its best – an enthralling new portrayal of this gothic love story.
The Phantom of the Opera famously ran in Melbourne for the first time in the early 90’s to astounding success. With celebrated Soprano Marina Prior in the lead, opposite Anthony Warlow and then Rob Guest, it went on to become the longest running musical in Australia. Now decades later, this beloved story has once again been sumptuously brought to life, this time by Cameron Mackintosh. Following highly successful tours in the UK and US and having just completed its season in Sydney, it is now running at the State Theatre, Art Centre Melbourne.
The opulence and grandeur of the historic Paris Opera house has been spectacularly recreated, with an all new, and quite magnificent staging design. The show has retained Maria Björnson’s original costumes and incorporated many new and impressive special effects, pyrotechnics and a show stopping realization of the musical’s iconic chandelier scene.
Set in the 1800’s where the Paris Opera house is being overshadowed by fear of a notorious ghost, who has long made specific demands that must be met. When new managers take over the opera house, they begin to ignore his requests at their peril…
We are given a sense of what life is like inside a busy opera house and as things go wrong, rumours of the Phantom of the Opera abound. At the same time an exceptional new talent is discovered in Opera protigee Christine Daae, played by brilliant rising star Amy Manford, who has been having lessons from a mysterious teacher. The mystery starts to unravel at the first incandescent meeting between Christine and the Phantom, played by the highly talented Josh Piterman. We watch as the pair travel by boat along a misty underground river to The Phantom’s dark and gothic lair. Christine is clearly conflicted by a sense of indebtedness to this mysterious person for her singing abilities, while at the same time being fearful of him. Meanwhile the Phantom has clearly fallen in love with his muse. Christine yearns to be with her true love Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny played to perfection by the big-voiced Blake Bowden.
There were strong performances all round and the energy and commitment were clearly evident. Amy Manford and Josh Piterman were triumphant in making the lead characters their own. Giuseppina Grech was delightful as Italian diva Carlotta Guidicelli and delivered impressive musical numbers, supported by tenor Ubaldo Piangi played by Paul Tabone. Jayde Westaby delivered a strong and stoic Madame Giry and Mietta White gave us the kind and caring Meg Giry. David Whitney engaged and entertained as Monsieur Firmin as did Andy Morton as his co-manager Monsieur Andre. The 37 strong cast includes large ensemble adding a sense of grandeur to the dynamic musical numbers. The musical score was expertly delivered with fortitude by a hefty 27 piece orchestra and perfectly complimented the performances.
Overall this grand, elegant and powerful production is guaranteed to endear the musical to a whole new generation of audiences.