Phantom used to feel like it haunted London’s West End, while other brighter musicals stole the spotlight. This productional has a renewed luster and vitality thanks to lockdown. It has been a spectacular staging experience. The way that I gasped with delight as Christine and the Phantom walked through the darkened catacombs, sparkly golden candelabras sprang from the ground would make you believe I had never been to a live show. Act 2, the explosive opening number Masquerade features a sparkling staircase that fills the stage. It is adorned with a cast dressed in extravagant Venetian Carnival costumes and they sing “Take your fill, the spectacle will astound.” We did.
Phantom’s synth-infused soundtrack and dry ice could make it seem old. Yet, this sparkling, slick, relaunched production feels right at home in our time. The title numbers’ opening bars were sounded by the powerful organ notes. I felt goosebumps. It’s just a show of brilliance that it is immediately followed by the lavish Music of the Night. We haven’t even gotten to Wishing You were Somehow Here Again or All I ask Of You.
The casting of Lucy St Louis as Christine, the West End’s first black lead lady has received much attention. What I saw in Lucy St Louis was an actress with strength, shading and charisma. She is also a strong soprano who can be a victim to the large-scale financial notes that are scattered throughout her score. Her dashing, dynamic suitor Raoul is matched by Rhys Whitfield. His voice rises alongside hers.
Killian Donnelly is a beautiful singer in the title role. He handles the multiple-octave tasks with ease. It’s clear that he chose to portray a sad and sorrowful Phantom. He often wanders dissolutely throughout his scenes. This doesn’t work for me. A Phantom that has a dark, more dangerous edge is what I like.
My guest stated afterwards that “You should not know whether you feel scared or turned on.” It is thrilling to hear Donnelly’s full voice, and it’s electrifying to see the characters’ pain and rage. But it wasn’t enough for me.
Although the supporting cast is strong, there was a bit more here or there that I preferred. Maybe a bit more self-indulgent campery by Greg Castiglioni and Saori Oda as preening opera stars Carlotti or Piangi. This is just splitting hairs. I am not a monstrously preening critic, but it’s a matter for personal taste.
It is undisputed that the show is world-class in terms of staging, music, and performance. They should pack the show to the catacombs and rafters for thirty more years.
Publited at Sun, 15 August 2021 12:00 PM +0000