June 14, 2013

The Phantom of the Opera

I was lucky enough to attend the premiere of the fastest selling show in Wellington Musical Theatre groups history; The Phantom of the Opera. I am very familiar with original cast recording but this was the first time I saw it performed live. The St James Theatre is really the only appropriate option for staging The Phantom, its old world opulence fits so well with the musical. It was a shame that the real theatre boxes weren't used for the show.

The production was extremely professional, not what you would expect from a local musical theatre group but they pride themselves on being "committed to producing large-scale professional quality blockbuster shows." The Phantom is certainly another triumph to add to their resume. As the president of the group, Conal Mckone, says it "is on the same level as an international production" but with something like The Phantom you can't really do things my halves. They are not-for-profit but I hope someone is being paid handsomely for all of their work.

WETA workshop was involved in the creation of some of the set pieces; all of them were stunning. Drop curtains were cleverly used to create different spaces, including using a curtain at the back of the stage to indicate that we were on stage with the actors, behind the main curtain. It was a traditional production, I believe The Phantom has yet to be re imagined. The staircase and rooftop sets were very similar to the Paris opera house they were based on (sadly I have only seen photos). The costuming was amazing but there were very few masks worn during Masquerade. 

The music itself was faultless. There were sections when either the microphones or the music was too loud but I’m sure that they will be ironed out. During scenes when several people were singing at once it was difficult to understand what anyone was saying, it created a wall of sound. Barbara Graham who played Christine has a very powerful voice but for some reason I thought her friend had a better look for the character.

I never realised how seductive the Phantom is during the first half before he gets really creepy. I think the whole generation of teenagers who were raised on love stories between women and monsters could be a new audience for the show, although it has not yet lost its popularity. I was surprised how much of a thriller I found it in addition to the romantic elements. I cried during the second half when Christine was at her father's grave and all her interactions with the Phantom.

The experience left me breathless. I look forward to seeing what Wellington Musical Theatre has in store next.

Tickets: $60-100
Venue: St James Theatre
Dates: 13 June-6 July, performance times vary

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