The longest running show in musical history, Phantom of the Opera, makes its way to Sydney and the premiere was something truly special.
I had never seen the Phantom of the Opera live before this show. I had watched the pretty bad Gerard Butler film adaptation and that was enough to at least get me interested about what this show actually was and is. When we found out the show was coming to Sydney, I knew we just had to go.
When we arrived at Mrs Macquarie Point, I was immediately blown away by the size and scale of the stage. Not to mention the fact that it’s floating over the water! The location was brilliant with both the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge in full view at all times. BUT the location was also the cause of most of the problems the show experienced, for the most part.
I won’t say much about the music because we all already know it’s good, great even, basically an automatic ten out of ten. Instead, I will focus on what I believe are the points of difference with this performance to others.
There are problems and issues that arise with any live performance with no exceptions, but most of the issues Phantomexperienced were due almost entirely to the strange stage set-up. Take the iconic introduction of the Phantom’s lair on the rowboat. In different versions, the boat is pushed on wheels across a stage covered in dry ice. It’s a cool dreamlike effect but dry ice is hardly something that will work as effectively outdoors as the wind will just blow it away. So instead, they made the characters enter the boat from the rear of the stage, leaving the stage empty for quite some time until the boat again appeared at the front of the stage. It was still a very cool scene, especially with the added pyrotechnics but it was awkward in execution when trying to reach that point.
You could also see stagehands running, and even diving off the stage at one point, due to the exposed rear of the stage. There’s hardly any shadow to hide the crew like there normally would be in a traditional theatre. But this was all relatively minor, but it does serve to illustrate the hurdles faced by the stage setup. Phantom of the Opera has been running for 35 years so it is natural to try and do something new with the setup and for the most part they have succeeded as really only the boat scene was ever awkward.
The added set fixtures were fantastic, especially those used during the scene in the graveyard. That scene was ephemeral and dreamy before turning into a hell of the Phantom’s creating. Love that big monolithic statue they brought in.
There were a few technical issues with some of the microphones and a few of the special effects but those were few and far between and usually never occurred at crucial moments. Most of the microphone issues were attributed to minor characters with just a few lines. There was, however, one effect that stumbled right at the end – the digital mirror. During the final moments when the Phantom is presumably killed, the mirror cracked and shattered well before the gunshot went off. However, the cast continued on with stunning professionalism. Usually though, the mirror worked as intended and most of these issues will likely be solved as the show goes on.
I had not one complaint about the cast. For any of the shows faults I don’t think the cast can be blamed for them. The absolute highlights were of course Joshua Robson as the Phantom and Georgina Hopson as Christine Daaé. You would hope so considering they are the leads. Robson managed to present his Phantom with a rasp and growl without affecting the character’s musical virtuosity – he’s mean and sad, but damn is the Phantom talented! What can be said of Hopson except damn she has some pipes on her! Her voice carries her even if her character isn’t the most interesting.
Callum Francis as Raoul was delightful in true Prince Charming fashion. His vocals also provide the perfect contrasts to the Phantom’s. The main cast is stunning all around.
The entire supporting cast keep up with the main cast with aplomb and I have nary a bad word to say about them. Though some of the dancers seemed slightly out of time at certain points, but again, these are minor complaints.
Credit where credit is due for the costume design. Gabriela Tylesova’s costume work was absolutely stunning. Every character felt purposefully dressed and some really got to shine like Naomi Johns’ Carlotta Guidicelli who had the most fun costumes to play with. Not much to say here other than fantastic work! Everything was fun, playful, and absolutely part of the overall spectacle.
My only gripe was a minor one relating to the Phantom’s mask. Instead of being white, it was reflective chrome which actually made it difficult to observe from afar. I mean, you know it’s there but it’s not because of the costume design rather it’s because of the cultural awareness most people have with the musical and the Phantom’s costume. It’s iconic after all and changing it would have been a difficult task for anyone, but the rest of his costume was great – I particularly liked his grandiose hat.
The Phantom of the Opera in Sydney is 100% worth seeing, if not for the sheer spectacle of it all. It might have a few issues but being able to see the show with the stunning backdrop of Sydney’s skyline is too good to miss. It may not be the quintessential version of Phantom but certainly a worthy one.
For more like this, check out our review for Sydney’s version of Hamilton.
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