Reviewed by Sophie Reed
Phantom of the Opera, a timeless classic that has been running on the West End for 31 years. I went to see the new cast at the evening show of the 19th of October and was thoroughly impressed. For me, it’s in my top 5 favourite musicals and I can be quite critical when it comes to the performance. Along with this performance, I’ve seen the show 3 times live on stage and this performance definitely lived up to my expectations.
The first actor I’ve got to talk about is Ben Lewis who has just taken over as the Phantom. Ben is probably most well known for playing the Phantom in the shows sequel, Love Never Dies, a performance which I have seen and wasn’t very fond of. Because of this, I was quite anxious about what he would be like as the younger Phantom. Ben is most definitely better suited to Phantom than to Love Never Dies. There was something about the Phantom score that is better suited to his voice. In addition, for someone who has only be playing the role on stage for a month, it came very naturally to him. I don’t know whether if this was because he’s played another version of the Phantom before, but if not, god he was good. My favourite part of his performance was in the Final Lair when Raoul shows up. Ben, just sits on his throne, utterly bored at Raoul’s pleas to see Christine. His ‘Your lover makes a passionate plea’ was more mocking than it was threatening. Also, in ‘Stranger Than You Dreamt It’ the difference between masked and unmasked Phantom was so clear, he wasn’t just using the mask to cover his physical problem, but also his emotional problems. It was nice to see a different take that I hadn’t seen before.
The next member of the company that needs to be discussed is Kelly Mathieson, who played the role of Christine. WHAT A VOICE! Her high notes were just perfection and so was her acting. During Notes II and ‘Wishing’ you could see how broken, confused and scared Christine was. My favourite part was when she sobbed into her cloak between the ‘and speaks my name’ line and ‘Little Lottie’ in ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ it made her seem more vulnerable, it made Wishing seem a lot more than Christine missing her father. Kelly made it seem like Christine was begging for strength. It really struck me. However, by the final lair, her Christine was feisty! She was blocking and protecting Raoul for her life. Her ‘You deceived me’ was just mind blowing, she screamed it, like she did not care anymore. In addition, another thing I liked was the face that Kelly is a trained ballet dancer, I was almost annoyed that Christine doesn’t get a lot of dancing in the show apart for ‘Hannibal’ and ‘Masquerade’ because it would’ve given her more chance to show off those skills.
At the performance, the actor who played Raoul was the 1st Cover, Jordan Simon Pollard and he proved, that understudies are just as good as the covers. This was his first day on as Raoul and looked like he’d been playing the role for years. A favourite part of his performance was in ‘All I Ask of You’ when he dipped Christine into a kiss. It was so romantic! Another part of his performance that I liked was that you always felt liked he protected her, not just because it was his duty, but also because he really loved her. His reaction to the Phantom and Christine kissing was also utterly heart-breaking.
The other main characters were also particularly strong. Georgia Ware who played Meg Giry, brought a new innocence to a usually bland character. Paul Ettore Tabone and Lara Martins chemistry on stage make the Carlotta and Piangi romance seem more real, genuine and less staged than what I’ve seen in the past. In addition, they’re comedy timing was next to none. Siôn Llyod as Firmin and understudy Andre, Richard Kent, both held the comedy timing needed for the two managers without going too satire and over the top, like Lara done perfectly with Carlotta.
The only thing disappointing with the production would be the fact that there were some technical difficulties with the chandelier falling, some glitchy lighting. However, if you weren’t as experienced with the show, they wouldn’t have been as noticeable. I also sort of liked that it went slightly wrong because it shows that even a show that has been running for 31 years can still have problems like that.
Overall, I give this timeless classic 5 stars!