Prepare to be swept away by the passion of the Phantom
by Alexandra Womack
WHEN I last saw the Phantom of the Opera in the West End I was aged 11 and complained that it made my ears hurt. Now 31, I would like to think I am somewhat better placed to appreciate Andrew Lloyd Webber’s enduring score and the deep, dark passion this hugely successful show explores.
And my childhood unease of the tale of a phantom who haunts an opera theatre and taunts its stars were finally laid to rest at Tuesday night’s breathtaking performance at the Bristol Hippodrome.
Katie Hall was sublime to listen to as the beautiful but tormented singer Christine Daae who is torn between the dark and the light, her reality and her phantom. Her voice knew no bounds as she hit the impenetrable high notes in the title number as Christine is led down the stairs of a giant revolving theatre set, across a candle-lit lake in a gondola to the phantom’s lair. And in contrast, in the tear-jerker love song All I Ask of You, Katie, who was discovered on television series I’d Do Anything, showed the tenderness of her tone in a stunning rendition at the end of the first half which left the audience eager to get the interval over with.
John Owen-Jones’ magnificent phantom certainly deserved the loudest cheer as the entire audience rose to their feet as soon as he uttered his last note. Many of us were in tears as we applauded his amazing performance of a mysterious being, albeit deformed and defiled having been forced to live in the shadows for so long, who has lost out on love. John is well experienced in the role but every note he sang sounded as though he was only just discovering each emotion himself. It was flawless, fearless, fabulous.
Simon Bailey was also stellar as Christine’s fiance Raoul, and held his own alongside the two stars.
The set deserves more than a passing mention as this new production boasts an entire theatre within a theatre which cleverly uses every nook and cranny for various scenes and transports the audience from the safety of the outside world to the depravity of what lies beneath the surface.
There were plenty of sparks on stage, spooks and frights but most of the goosebumps came from the music – which still, after 30 years, is one of the most rousing, emotionally-charged scores ever composed.
With Angel of Music, the infamous The Phantom of the Opera, the Music of the Night, Masquerade, Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, Wandering Child, this was Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Macintosh’s finest hour and it continues to do the duo proud.
Phantom is a journey – of discovery, of love, of passion. Prepare to be swept away as you don’t just follow the highs and lows of this desperate love triangle but feel them through the music of the night.
The show is on at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, June 30.