In the midst of the national lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “The Show Must Go On” is bringing the theatre to you! Each Friday, an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical has been streamed on their YouTube channel to viewers for free. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to view the “The Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall” from the comfort of my home and enjoy a tale of romance, obsession, and revenge.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of “The Phantom of the Opera”, Andrew Llyod Webber and Cameron Mackintosh produced three special performances starring Ramin Karimloo as The Phantom, Sierra Boggess as Christine, Hadley Fraser as Raoul, as well as a cast and orchestra of more than 200 people. Llyod Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” is a musical based on a French novel by Gaston Leroux that first opened in 1988 and amazed audiences with a hauntingly beautiful scenery, orchestra, and special effects.
“The Phantom of the Opera” tells a story of a disfigured composer and vocalist, known as The Phantom, who hides in the shadows while terrorizing an opera house with demands, threatening violence if they are not met. The Phantom falls in love with the beautiful and talented Christine and begins to train her in secret, but his love turns into a dark and dangerous obsession.
Karimloo and Boggess performed The Phantom and Christine as if they were born for these roles, leaving no room for argument. Boggess’ performance was so full of emotion that it was hard to look away anytime she was on stage, not to mention delivering vocals that were guaranteed to give the audience chills. Karimloo’s portrayal of The Phantom was haunting and projected the pain and anger that develops over a lifetime of feeling shame and rejection. In addition to the individual performances, all the performers were insync in all aspects in a way that the choreography flowed beautifully, the chemistry between characters was realistic, and the vocals were smooth and volumized at the correct times.
From start to finish, the visual experience from this production was breathtaking. Inspired by the original “Phantom of the Opera” style, Matt Kinley designed an elegant and gothic scenery that was just beautiful to look at. The design was amplified by skilled lighting done by Patrick Woodroffe to further establish the correct mood and feeling in each scene. The attention to detail in the costume designs were impressive and made the wardrobe even for fabulous.
Although the standard makeup on the performances was flawless, the prosthetic makeup on The Phantom was not done well. The botched prosthetic makeup is slightly excusable due to how difficult and uncomfortable it can be to perform in that kind of make. Luckily, Karimloo’s strong performance overshadows this hiccup.
Now last, but definitely not least .. Let’s talk music. This is a musical after all, right? Even though I enjoyed the performances of Boggess and Karimloo, the orchestra was the real star of the show. The orchestra contributed to one of the most iconic songs of the entire show, which is “The Phantom of the Opera”. The orchestra, vocals, and sound effects produced at the right times and at the right volumes.
Time and again we still the recreation and adaptations of classic masterpieces pale in comparison to the original. This production did not suffer the same fate. The amount of effort and passion that went into “The Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall” produced a captivating, impactful and enjoyable experience. The play was brilliantly executed and provided a similar experience to that which audiences in 1988 were awarded.