“The Music of the Night”- 25 Years of “Phantom”
I have finally seen London’s longest-running West End musical; Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera”. To celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary a special live performance was conducted in the Royal Albert Hall and broadcast around the world in a cinematic screening format. I was fortunate enough to attend a screening at my local the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. It is safe to say that I now completely understand why “Phantom” is considered one of the greatest musicals of all time.
Prior to the performance, a short documentary was viewed led by the show’s creative team including Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron McIntosh; informing the audience of how the musical came about and the process of putting it together. For first time viewers it provided a useful background of the show’s history and an outline of what was about to be portrayed on screen. Here, I provide a link for more information on the history and the show itself: http://www.theatrehistory.com/british/musical005.html.
The production quality was absolutely outstanding. Set designer the late Maria Bjornson’s Gothic vision of the scenery and costumes were magnificently captured. The whole look of the show and the mise-en-scene was elaborate and appealing from the visually stunning theatre world to the dark, brooding feel of the Phantom’s lair.The Phantom’s make-up was superb and genuinely looked horrific. This production would be depicted as a hybrid due to the fact that even though it is a theatrical performance, it also slots in to a cinematic context. In those terms, it was shot beautifully. The character’s emotions during the major musical numbers were emphasised with medium-close ups, heightening the intensity. Tracking and panning shots throughout the theatre contributed to demonstrating the surroundings of both the sets and the audience. It was clever how point of view shots were also used, placing the audience in the position of the Phantom watching the stage; adding to the eeriness. The sound was sharp and created the sensation of being in the theatre with the live audience especially in moments of applause. On the whole the production was traditional theatre at its best, unlike the more recent musicals such as “Ghost”, it did not rely on digital imagery to establish its locations.
Performance-wise the whole cast were flawless. Ramin Karimloo (who played the Phantom) and Sierra Boggess (Christine) were absolutely breathtaking to watch. The Phantom is a very complex character, creating conflict for the audience from one moment to the next. He gives off an unsettling feeling but a sense of empathy is also conveyed; particularly throughout the second act. Ramin Karimloo delivered the essence of the character brilliantly. By the finale I was saddened by his vulnerability and misunderstood nature. Sierra Boggess’s voice was earth-shattering, transitioning the audience into complete escapism. “Phantom” is one of those stories that mesmerises people and the wonderful cast contributed in order to make that notion happen.
There is no doubt that the whole score in “Phantom” is beautiful. The title number is powerful, and results in a goosebumps, hair standing on the back of the neck moment. My personal favourite “The Music of the Night” is haunting but also feels very calming at the same time. “All I Ask Of You” is a beautiful love song, lyrically describing the emotion well. “Point of no Return” was an intense lead up to the climax. “Phantom” most definitely has one of the best scores in musical theatre history.
Following the finale, Andrew Lloyd Webber made an appearance to thank and pay tribute to all those involved in his greatest achievement. For the anniversary it was very fitting. Surprisingly the audience were treated to renditions of the show’s most famous numbers, performed by past Phantom’s and a special appearance by the original Christine, Sarah Brightman which made an incredible conclusion for the celebration.
As a new fan of “Phantom” it will be on my to-do list for next year to attend a live performance in London. I can now fully appreciate why it is one of the longest-running shows of all time. Its chilling love story and stunning score makes “Phantom” a magical musical. If I was to describe it in one word: Phantastic!
Hayley Alice Roberts.