Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, is an ideal setting for Lloyd-Webber’s iconic musical; with its sweeping domed ceiling and the golden portraits that adorn the walls, one truly feels like a 19th century audience member, watching the phantom wreak havoc upon a theatre. However, while the small auditorium ensures an ambience of intimacy, the curved rows of seating mean that it is difficult to see all the action onstage and results in many audience members craning their necks in order to try and catch a glimpse of the drama.
The character of the Phantom has always intrigued me and I find it fascinating that despite the fact that he is a crazed murderer; an audience is able to empathise with him and understand Christine’s attraction. However, Scott Davises’ portrayal challenged this fondness, turning the Phantom from a lovesick and tortured man into a monster, who dragged a reluctant Christine around the stage and exaggerated the violent and domineering character traits that are usually excused. His singing was mediocre and often, when he was unable to reach the high notes that the score required, his voice dropped to an almost inaudible tone. Nevertheless, his acting compensated for this and the passion and pain displayed during the play’s climax moved me to tears.
Anna O’Byrne depicted Christine and her astounding voice encapsulated the emotions of the character while enthralling the audience. The excellent score, which has long since become a classic, highlighted her talents and she made an incredible performance appear easy. However, her scenes with the Phantom lacked chemistry and often her gestures appeared wooden and forced.
The Phantom of the Opera is, without doubt, one of the best musicals of all time. It has been described by The Sunday Express as a “gorgeous operatic extravaganza that is a thrill to the blood and a sensual feast for the eye” and I agree that it has a beautiful storyline and a cleverly constructed and breath-taking score that deserves to be played by a live orchestra. While I found that this production was too flawed to be wholeheartedly recommended, I do advise that you see a stage version as it is the only way to fully appreciate the phenomenon that is ‘the Phantom’.