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The Phantom of the Opera – Sydney Opera House (NSW)

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics by Charles Hart, Directed by Seth Sklar-Heyn


Reviewed by Justin Clarke

Friday 19th August to Sunday 16th October Standard tickets from $99


The world can’t seem to let go of Phantom of the Opera. And why should they? Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical with a flair for the operatic, featuring classic Broadway ballads and that ever-haunting organ is one of the longest running in the world. For the first time, The Phantom of the Opera haunts the Joan Sutherland Theatre; a macabre tale that is right at home in the Sydney Opera House.


Cameron Mackintosh’s new production dusts off the cobwebs of the 1986 staging and delves into the love triangle of Gaston Leroux’s novel. Themes of light and shadow, illusions and reality, play out through decadent costumes, an incredible soundscape, and a more hermit-styled lair for the Phantom. The grandeur that makes Phantom timeless is still there; the boat still crosses a misty stage, Christine still ensnares your heart and, yes, that chandelier does still fall, with a little bit of Opera Australia magic for your enjoyment.

(c) Daniel Boud

At the heart of Phantom of the Opera is an impossible to resist love triangle. The “opera ghost” with his iconic half mask (Josh Piterman) tutors the young singer Christine Daaé (Amy Manford) from behind the Paris House Opera walls, while the young Vicomte de Chagny, Raoul (Blake Bowden) steals her love. The trio of Piterman, Manford and Bowden are as iconic as this new production. Beyond them, everything else seems secondary.


In theory, we aren’t meant to feel for the murderous, manipulative character of The Phantom, but by God Josh Piterman makes it difficult. Piterman brings a richness in his voice, and a vulnerability to his physicality while always reminding us of his treacherous nature. ‘Music of the Night’ may just bring a well of tears to your eyes.


Amy Manford commands the stage as the rising star Christine, eliciting a sweetness and a bold element of bravery. Her refusal to be used as bait for The Phantom in Act Two was expertly played to add a new layer to the role, and her solo ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ stole the spotlight.


Bringing his wealth of experience to the theatre, Blake Bowden skilfully captured the essence of Raoul. This was a character worthy of Christine’s love, and his scenes played against Piterman brought a palpable sense of tension.


Supporting the stellar leads, Paul Tabone’s Ubaldo Piangi brings smatterings of humour and the ease of a performer who has played the role well over 1600 times. Giuseppina Grech’s Carlotta Giudicelli doubles down on this humour as the opera’s diva. David Whitney, Andy Morton, Jayde Westaby and Mietta White are all admirable in each of their performances.

Instilled with a new vitality and a macabre facelift, there are moments that will leave your jaw on the Sydney Opera House floor.

The most striking element of this reimagined version is Paul Brown’s set design. Brown’s modular set feels like a storybook. Walls turn and separate, revealing hidden rooms and dividing the opera stage with its dark and shadowy wings. A seemingly illusionary staircase slides in and out as the Phantom and Christine descend to his lair. The large staircase of ‘Masquerade’ is gone and replaced with mirrors, highlighting the idea of illusions and identity. And to top it off, pyrotechnics induce fear and fantasy around the Phantom himself, making us believe that this is indeed “his theatre.”


The thrilling moments of the score shine in the Sydney Opera House. The self-referential nature of the show’s setting in the “Opera House” of Paris, and the “Opera House” of Sydney is something to revel in. As soon as the chandelier first rises and Lloyd Webber & David Cullen’s orchestrations commence, it is impossible to stop the goosebumps. Under the supervision of Guy Simpson, Opera Australia’s orchestra soars.


That’s not to say it’s all thrills. There are still moments the show loses tension, and you count the seconds until Piterman’s Phantom reappears. There is an overuse of shadows which results in the production seeming dark, as if the brightness just needed to be upped a notch. Whilst ‘Masquerade’ is still a spine-tingling musical number with Maria Björnson's original magnificent costumes implemented by Jill Parker, the decadence and vitality in the number doesn’t quite match its predecessors.


Phantom of the Opera still proves a delight after all these years. Instilled with a new vitality and a macabre facelift, there are moments that will leave your jaw on the Sydney Opera House floor. Don’t expect the Phantom to leave the opera anytime soon.


The Phantom of the Opera plays at the Sydney Opera House until 16th October. Tickets can be booked at sydneyoperahouse.com

 

CAST THE PHANTOM Josh Piterman CHRISTINE DAAÉ Amy Manford RAOUL, VICOMTE DE CHAGNY Blake Bowden MONSIEUR ANDRÉ Andy Morton MONSIEUR FIRMAN David Whitney CARLOTTA GIUDICELLI Giuseppina Grech MADAME GIRY Jayde Westaby UBALDO PIANGI Paul Tabone MEG GIRY Mietta White PRINCESS, PAGE, CHRISTINE DAAÉ AT CERTAIN PERFORMANCES Bridget Costello DON ATTILIO Elliot Baker MONSIEUR REYER Anton Berezin HAIRDRESSER Ben Clark

The Ballet Chorus of the Opéra Populaire Laura Bianchi-Bishop Christina Gibbs Claudia Hastings Elisha Zion Lee Emma McFarlane Brittany Page

MONSIEUR LEFÈVRE, FIRE CHIEF Andrew Dunne MARKSMAN Lewis Francis JEWELLER Daniel Koek WILD WOMAN, CONFIDANTE Naomi Livingston WARDROBE MISTRESS Imogen-Faith Malfitano PRINCESS, MADAME FIRMAN Josephine Lonergan PRINCESS, PAGE Kayleigh Marven HANNIBAL'S GUARD, SATYR Edward Smith, Jack Wunsch PASSARINO Tod Strike AUCTIONEER Troy Sussman JOSEPH BUQUET Raphael Wong

Swings DANCE CAPTAIN Olivia Jenkins ASSISTANT DANCE CAPTAIN Aaron Lynch Eleanor Blythman Gavin Brown Lachlan O'Brien Anna Stephens

CREATIVES PRODUCER Cameron Mackintosh COMPOSER, BOOK, CO-ORCHESTRATOR Andrew Lloyd Webber LYRICS Charles Hart BOOK & ADDITIONAL LYRICS Richard Stilgoe DIRECTOR Laurence Connor CHOREOGRAPHER Scott Ambler SET DESIGN Paul Brown COSTUME DESIGNER Maria Björnson® LIGHTING DESIGNER Paule Constable SOUND DESIGN Mick Potter ORCHESTRATIONS David Cullen ASSOCIATE COSTUME DESIGNER AND MARIA BJÖRNSON®’S COSTUME DESIGNS RECREATED BY Jill Parker VIDEO & PROJECTION DESIGN Nina Dunn ILLUSION CONSULTANT Paul Kieve HAIR AND WIG CREATOR Angela Cobbin PRODUCTION OVERSEEN BY Matthew Bourne MUSICAL SUPERVISOR (AUSTRALIA) Guy Simpson PRODUCER Really Useful Theatre Co. ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR Seth Sklar-Heyn ASSOCIATE CHOREOGRAPHER Nina Goldman RESIDENT DIRECTOR Erin James MUSICAL DIRECTOR Anthony Barnhill

 

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