Phantom of the Opera review
Believe it or not, the Phantom of the Opera was my first ever musical (unless you count Worzel Gummidge at Wimbledon Theatre when I was a kid) and it was pretty good. I'd never heard of any of the cast though. It was some guy called Marcus Lovett and Sofia Escobar in the lead roles, with Simon Thomas and a pretty blonde bird in the others. But don't ask me who was who -- I'm assuming that Marcus was the Phantom and Sofia was Christine. Marcus had a mask on half the time, and when he took it off he looked like the Emperor in Star Wars. He looked like he'd been in a nasty fight (and lost). That's why he couldn't pull any birds, you see -- because women are basically too shallow to see past his scars. Hence he had to live in the sewers underneath the opera house. And the only way he could woo his lady mate was through intimidation and fear, and bumping off her showbiz colleagues. Yes folks, it's quite a cheery little tale!
It might have been my first musical but I'm not a total philistine, so I had heard a few of Andrew Lloyd Webber's tunes before. It's got quite a lot of songs you'll recognise off the radio -- stuff like "The Music of the Night", "All I Ask of You" and of course "The Phantom of the Opera". All good tunes which I can still whistle now, several hours later.
I don't want to give too much away, but I thought the ending was just plain daft. I suppose they were going for a Shakespearean tragedy kind-of ending, with people weeping into their hankies at the taxi rank, but this phantom is a cold-blooded killer! You are not going to feel sorry for this guy, trust me. I thought it was going to be a doomed love affair... star-crossed lovers... beauty loves the beast kind-of thing, where the pretty girl waltzes off with the pug-ugly monster after singing a few songs... but this lady has at least got some brains. Its not long before she hates the ugly guy's guts -- good!
The first half is great -- it's got all the best songs and set pieces too, and the closing scene before the interval is a cracker. I won't spoil what happens, but I will give you one little piece of advice -- remember to duck! They must have spent a fortune on the sets -- one minute they are staging a corny old Egyptian Opera, complete with obelisks and a life-size elephant, and the next minute they have you sailing across the smokey sewers, with little flickering flames and chandeliers poking out of the smog. The second half opens with a grand staircase two stories tall, filled top to toe with fabulously dressed party goers, and then they whisk you up onto the roof of the opera house, overlooking the lamplit Parisian rooftops. Everything is pretty plush, the sets, the costumes... whatever it cost, it shows.
I thought the second half plodded along a bit. I reckon Andrew Lloyd Webber threw everything he had into the first half and dried up on his tunes. The final act in the Phantom's lair is almost totally devoid of melody -- where's the big finish? All the best set pieces are in the first hour -- the boat on the lake is great the first time you see it, but he wheels it out again at the end and repeats the tunes that came before. It's still pretty good though, so I'm not having a moan (much). But eating your ice cream at the interval is the bit where it starts to level off.
It's quite a simple little plot, which is quite handy because you can't hear what they're singing half the time. They either belt it out so loud or so high that it just becomes a wall of noise. The women are warbling along and doing all those Mariah Carey histrionics that they may as well be talking Double Dutch. That's why they never bother translating operas into English -- theres no point, because you wouldn't be able to hear what they're saying anyway!
Of all the musicals I've been too (which is just one), this is definitely the best.
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