The Phantom of the Opera - Musical ☆☆☆☆☆5
Showing from - Tuesday, March 29, 2016 through till Saturday, April 2, 2016
Brewhouse Arts Centre - Burton upon Trent
Ross Lowe | Tuesday, March 29, 2016
When the Phantom speaks, you listen. Woe betide you if you don't do as he asks. And when he sings, well, wow.
In fact when any one of the cast of LTC Youth's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'The Phantom of the Opera' breaks into song: wow. Jack Hawkins has the audience under his spell every bit as much as he does ChristineMesmerisingly atmospheric from the moment the lights drop (literally), this production had the audience spellbound through to the finish.
The story begins after it ended, with a 1905 auction of theatrical curiosities from the Opéra Populaire including a sinister musical box and a shattered chandelier that has some connection to the strange mystery of 'The Phantom of the Opera'. As the prologue ends we are transported back to 1881 so that we may explore the mystery for ourselves. A rehearsal is taking place and it is here that we first encounter Carlotta Giudicelli, the resident prima-donna. With an ego as big as her voice, it's a terrific character role and India Burnton plays it to perfection. Her voice is stunning and her performance is full of operatic sass - never more so than when she storms off in a huff, refusing to continue to rehearse as odd and unsettling events occur in the theatre. Her departure thrusts chorus-member Christine Daaé (Emmie Doyle) into the limelight who successfully auditions for her role. Little does she or anyone else on that stage know how fateful an event that will become.
Emmie Doyle's performance is both wonderful and compelling. Her every movement is graceful and she sings with a voice that soars with both power and tenderness as we follow her plight through the labyrinth beneath the opera house. Her talent shines throughout and 'Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again' was enchanting.
As the story progresses Christine falls ever more under the spell of the mysterious masked Phantom (Jack Hawkins), a strange presence who appears in her dressing room to deliver singing lessons as her 'Angel of Music'. She confides this to the Opéra's new patron, the dashing Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny (Oliver Last), who sees nothing credible in her fantasies. However, as the Phantom appears in her mirror after they depart, it becomes apparent that there is more to what Christine says than mere folly and that his power over her is growing ever stronger.
Menace and Tenderness
Jack Hawkins has the audience under his spell every bit as much as he does Christine. Menace and tenderness are both supremely delivered and balanced in an impressive performance. At times he terrifies, at others he tugs at your sympathies and he sings with a masterful voice that most adult performers would kill to own. Oliver Last's Raoul is a great portrayal too, a perfect match for Christine as he follows her into the catacombs in an attempt to both understand her plight and rescue her from it.
This production of the West End and Broadway hit, which celebrates 30 years on the London stage in September this year, meets all the technical, musical and performance challenges head-on. A magical mirror brings the apparitional Phantom to life before he transports Christine through his underground lair in a boat, and Tilley and Matt Bancroft's backdrops and lighting respectively combine to bring the worlds of the Opera House and the Phantom's underworld to a stunning reality. The costumes are sumptuous, Katie Haywood's choreography is spot-on and Katie Hailstone's musical direction is incredibly impressive. These voices have been very well-trained and coached to achieve their full potential and along with John Bowness's excellent direction, it is clear that the huge array of talent at LTC Youth is being carefully and well nurtured. Every performer onstage is fully focussed, every one a character, every one playing to their strengths.
There are other notable and no less superb performances from Edward Watchman and William Pearson as the endlessly entertaining Opéra owners Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur Andre, Katie Ireland's stern yet compassionate ballet mistress Madame Giry, Christine's innocent close friend Meg Giry (Georga Ratcliffe), Aaron Titterton's downtrodden opera star Ubaldo Piangi, Adam Woodward's compelling Auctioneer, Jim Haywood's amusing Monsieur Lefevre and Fop, Dominic White's demented Joseph Buquet, Scarlett Marchant's Confidante and Ewan Bourne's Passarino in the Phantom's own 'Don Juan Triumphant'.
Powerful and Memorable
The company's ensemble and dancers are a joy to watch throughout (never more so than in the terrifically uplifting and colourful 'Masquerade') and make this a powerful, memorable production of which everyone involved should be rightly proud. The principal singers were all as good as any I've heard in regional theatre and when their voices combined together the effect was enough to set the hairs rising on the back of my neck.
Once again LTC Youth have demonstrated a canny knack for being able to make the audience forget the 'youth' aspect of what they do, with a production full of performances that are every bit as mature and accomplished as you could wish to see onstage. This is youth theatre beyond its finest. Licensing restrictions mean that they are limited to a maximum of five performances which is a genuine shame, but for everyone of you out there who has managed to secure yourself a seat, you're in for a treat. For everyone who missed out, I implore you to keep an eye out for their next show.
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