Review: The Phantom of the Opera. The exciting new production that delivers a performance of a life time.

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The Phantom of the Opera
đź“· Daniel B | The Phantom of the Opera

The world’s most iconic and beloved musical has returned to Sydney and theatregoers should be mesmerised by this majestic and brilliant production.

Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera is finally making its highly anticipated premiere at the Sydney Opera House. The history-making Sydney season sees one of the most successful and much-loved musicals of all time make its debut at one of the world’s most iconic venues.

The Phantom of the Opera will play a 9-week season at the globally renowned Sydney Opera House until 16 October before making its way to Arts Centre Melbourne from 30 October.

The music is, incredible, and the 27-piece orchestra effortlessly narrated the operatic story with a 37-strong cast, making it one of the largest musical productions ever in Australia.

The talented Australian cast is led by Josh Piterman in the coveted lead role of the Phantom while Amy Manford takes on the role of the ingénue Christine Daaé and Blake Bowden plays Raoul Vicomte de Chagny.

For the first time, The Phantom of the Opera has taken to the Sydney Opera House stage. The Joan Sutherland Theatre felt a little small, however, the power ballad musical makes its presence. Visually stunning and takes you back to the year 1881 in Paris with beautifully designed costumes and exceptional singing.

The curtains are drawn and we open the show at the Paris OpĂ©ra House in 1919, which hosted an auction of old theatre memorabilia. Among the attendees is an aged Viscount Raoul de Chagny (Blake Bowden), who purchases Lot 665, a paper-mâchĂ© music box with a monkey figurine. He eyes it sadly, cryptically observing that it appears “exactly as she said”. The next lot – Lot 666 – is an old chandelier, renovated with electrical wiring. The auctioneer reveals that this chandelier was involved in a famous disaster, connected to “the strange affair of the Phantom of the Opera, a mystery never fully explained.” He commands the auction assistants to turn on the power and light up the chandelier for all to see.

Act I sees us in 1881, with the cast of a new production, Hannibal, rehearsing. The fabulous Carlotta (Giuseppina Grech), the OpĂ©ra’s resident soprano prima donna, begins to perform an aria when a backdrop inexplicably falls, causing anxious chorus girls to shout, “He’s here! The Phantom of the Opera!”.

The amusing new owners, Monsieur Firmin (David Whitney) and Monsieur AndrĂ© (Andy Morton), try to downplay the incident, but Carlotta angrily storms offstage. Madame Giry (Jayde Westaby), the OpĂ©ra’s ballet mistress, suggests that Christine DaaĂ© (Amy Manford), a chorus girl and orphaned daughter of a prominent Swedish violinist, has been “well taught” and can sing Carlotta’s role.

Backstage after her triumphant debut, Christine confesses to her friend, Madame Giry’s daughter Meg (Mietta White), that her singing has been inspired by an unseen tutor she knows only as the “Angel of Music”.

Christine hears the jealous Phantom’s voice and entreats him to reveal himself. The Phantom obliges by appearing in her mirror (“The Mirror/Angel of Music”). Christine is irresistibly drawn through the mirror to the Phantom, who leads her down into the shadowy sewers below the OpĂ©ra house. The two board a small boat and cross a subterranean lake to his secret lair. The Phantom explains that he has chosen Christine to sing his musical compositions.

A mirror reflects an image of her in a wedding dress; when the mirror image spreads its arms towards the real Christine, she faints from shock. The Phantom lays her on a bed and covers her tenderly with his cloak (“The Music of the Night”).

As the Phantom is composing music at his organ, Christine awakens to the sound of the monkey music box (“I Remember”). She slips behind the Phantom, lifts his mask, and beholds his disfigured face. The Phantom rails at her prying, then ruefully express.

Act II is seen six months later, the Opera house hosts a masquerade ball. The Phantom, who has been conspicuously absent since the chandelier disaster, appears in costume as the Red Death. He announces that he has written an opera entitled Don Juan Triumphant, and demands that it be produced with Christine (who is now engaged to Raoul) in the lead role. He pulls Christine’s engagement ring from the chain around her neck and vanishes in a flash of light (“Masquerade/Why So Silent”).

Raoul accosts Madame Giry and demands that she reveal what she knows about the Phantom. She reluctantly explains that the Phantom is a brilliant scholar, magician, architect, inventor, and composer, who was born with a deformed face. Feared and reviled by society, he was cruelly exhibited in a cage as part of a travelling fair until he eventually escaped and took refuge beneath the opera house.

Raoul plots to use the première of Don Juan Triumphant to trap the Phantom and end his reign of terror, knowing he will attend the opera’s debut. He begs Christine to help lure the Phantom into the trap (“Notes/Twisted Every Way”). Torn between her love for Raoul and her awe of the Phantom, Christine visits her father’s grave, begging for his guidance (“Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again”).

Don Juan Triumphant premieres with Christine and Piangi, the house tenor, singing the respective lead roles of Aminta and Don Juan. During Don Juan and Aminta’s duet, Christine realizes that the Phantom has somehow replaced Piangi (“Don Juan Triumphant/The Point of No Return”). She calmly removes his mask, revealing his deformed face to the horrified audience. Exposed, the Phantom hurriedly drags Christine off the stage and back to his lair. Piangi’s garrotted body is revealed backstage and the opera house plunges into chaos. An angry mob, vowing vengeance for the murders of Buquet and Piangi, search for the Phantom. Madame Giry tells Raoul how to find the Phantom’s subterranean lair and warns him to beware of the magical lasso (“Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer”).

In the lair, the Phantom forces Christine to don a wedding dress. Raoul comes to the rescue and is ensnared in the Punjab lasso. The Phantom offers Christine an ultimatum: if she will stay with him, he will spare Raoul, but if she refuses, Raoul will die (“The Point of No Return Reprise”). Christine tells the Phantom that he’s not alone and kisses him.

Having experienced both kindness and compassion for the first time, the Phantom frees Raoul. He also tells Christine that he loves her and she tearfully exits the lair with Raoul. As the angry search mob closes in, the Phantom huddles on his throne beneath his cloak. Meg is the first to enter the lair. She approaches the Phantom’s throne and pulls away the cloak, finding only his mask.

Josh Piterman, Amy Manford and Blake Bowden delivered a magnificent performance and I have the chills to prove it. It was an extravagant and memorable night out to remember. A classic that deserves 5 stars and an evening worth getting dressed to the nines. Congrats to everyone involved on and off the stage.

Sydney
Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Until 16 October 2022

Melbourne
State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
From 30 October 2022

Tickets are available at phantomoftheopera.com.au

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