IT’S been more than 25 years since The Phantom of the Opera first opened and it remains just as compelling today – not least because producer Cameron Mackintosh is unafraid of making huge changes to such a successful show.
While the basic formula, script and music all remain the same, this anniversary tour is a totally new production, with a lavish set (I lost count of scene changes) by Paul Brown and choreography by Scott Ambler, with Liverpool Empire favourite Matthew Bourne overseeing.
This is no flimsy touring production but the full West End-style experience with a rich, sensual feel that matched the Gothic melodrama in intensity.
With Earl Carpenter forced to pull out due to illness, and his understudy also, well, under the weather, it was up to Welshman John Owen-Jones to jump on a train and step back into the role he had performed for the opening half of the UK tour.
As the first British actor to star as The Phantom on Broadway, he is well versed in the part and he played it as if he had woken that morning expecting to do it – bringing to the disturbed character the sensitivity that makes it one of musical theatre’s greatest anti-heroes.
In Music of the Night, sung in his candlelit subterranean lair, his mellow voice was so carefully controlled that it was at times barely more than a whisper.
As Christine, the young dancer who believes she has met an Angel of Music rather than a monster of the night, Katie Hall far outweighs her pedigree as a bootcamp contestant on BBC’s I’d Do Anything and finalist in the search for a Eurovision contestant Your Country Needs You. Her fine voice was matched by her onstage grace.
Andy Hockley and Simon Green, as the indignant theatre owners, brought a touch of comic lightness to the story, with the amusing operetta-style number Notes.
Despite the slightly dated eurorock feel to the first rendition of the title song, which was nonetheless powerful, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score is as fresh today as it was back in 1986.
When you witness a production of this quality, it is easy to see why it has so comfortably lasted more than a quarter of a century and will undoubtedly continue to fill theatres for many more years to come.