MUSIC OWL AWARDS: 1st – music; 2nd – song (Music of the Night)
When I went: 10 June 2008, 11 February 2016 and 23 February 2017
Location: Her Majesty’s Theatre, London
Performers: 2008: Leila Ben Harris (Christine), Ramin Karimloo (Phantom), Alex Katheberger (Raoul); 2016: Celinde Schoenmaker (Christine), Nadim Naaman (Raoul), Kieran Brown (Phantom – understudy); 2017: Ben Forster (Phantom), Celinde Schoenmaker (Christine), Nadim Naaman (Raoul), Lara Martins (Carlotta), Sion Lloyd (Monsieur Firmin), Mark Oxtoby (Monsieur Andre), Jacinta Mulcahy (Madame Giry), Paul Ettore Tahore (Ubaldo Piangi), Daisy Alice Hulbert (Meg Giry)
Creative team: Andrew Lloyd Webber (music), Charles Hart (lyrics), Gaston Leroux (original French book), Cameron Mackintosh (producer), The Really Useful Theatre Company (producer)
Approximate price: £30 (2008 – Royal Circle), £95 (2016 – stalls)
Special points: Amazing music and great gothic story
Best bit: Music of the Night
If I could change one thing: Fewer indulgent references to ‘classic’ operas
The Phantom of the Opera is one of those classic musicals that everyone has heard of, and everyone can hum songs from even if they haven’t seen it. Not every musical theatre fan is a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber, but personally I think that Phantom probably has the strongest music in any musical, even if I would do away with a few of the extended references to ‘classic’ operas.
Weird as it may sound given the old-fashioned, gothic story (based on the French novel by Gaston Leroux), I think that everyone will find something to relate to in at least one of the songs in Phantom – whether it is the loss of a loved one (Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again), seduction (Point of No Return) or romance (All I Ask Of You). The music also gives singers aspiring to virtuosic technique something to aim for, and the staging, especially in the scenes with the underground lake, mirrors and chandelier, is always amazing.
Phantom is a must-see if you are a musical theatre fan; whether it is one of your favourites or not, musical theatre wouldn’t be the same without it.
When I first saw this live in 2008, I was blown away by how well the music and lyrics work onstage, and when I saw it again in 2016 I relished the new take on the lead parts, especially Celinde Schoenmaker’s slightly feistier Christine.
In the 2017 performance, I noticed that Ben Forster’s Phantom was more physical and emotional than the incarnations I had seen before; he threw himself into the part, crawling around the stage and dissolving into tears at certain points. He made this highly-strung performance work as he sung it with a lot of technical control and musical confidence, and his version of the Phantom also had good chemistry with Celinde Schoenmaker’s Christine, which is a little more girlish and mischievous than Leila Ben Harris’ 2008 version or Emmy Rossum’s more innocent take on the part of Christine in the film.