Arriving at Phantom of the Opera
We arrived at Her Majesty’s Theatre at around 7 p.m. The foyer was already buzzing with early arrivals, programme sellers and theatre staff selling glasses of chilled champagne.We resisted the temptation (just!) and picked up our tickets. It was just lovely not to have to queue.
In the Bar of the Theatre
Then we headed for a pre-show drink in the bar. The bars are bright and attractive with a varied range of drinks available. I was greedy and opted for a “large”, actually huge, glass of pinot noir. We enjoyed the bustle as more people arrived, enough to be a crowd but not so many as to be a crush. The doors to the auditorium opened about ten minutes before the show was due to start. The theatre quickly filled and even on a Monday night there were very few empty seats.
A Lovely Old Theatre and a New Sound System
We made our way to our seats and began to look around. It really is a lovely, old fashioned theatre. There’s something much more intimate about the older West End theatres. Here we really felt we were close to the stage rather than watching everything happening in the distance.
I’d been a bit concerned with all the talk of the Phantom’s new sound system but I needn’t have worried. The amplification was just about right for the space and the suitably spooky sound effects weren’t too intrusive.
Very Special Effects
There are some super effects in Phantom of the Opera. I must admit I was a bit worried when I realised I was sitting directly underneath that famous Phantom chandelier ! There are some quite magical moments but I’m not going to go into too much detail in case you’ve not been yet. The production has been around for over 20 years and yet it still works and seems quite fresh.
The Music of the Night
Much of the music of Phantom of the Opera is quite familiar. There was some quite wonderful singing from the principals and from the ensemble. I did find it hard at first not to make comparisons with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. They both have such distinctive voices. Once I was swept up in the live performance though, I suspended my disbelief and lost myself in the story, the spectacle and the glory of the music.
I thought the costume designs were stunning. I loved all the opera costumes and make-up. It was like watching a period theatre print or one of those paper toy theatres come to life. I thought Masquerade scene was also a particular joy but my partner was not so sure and thought it was ‘a bit garish’. And indeed, it was garish. I thought that just added to the nightmare quality of the scene.
The Story of Phantom of the Opera
I’m sure there are people who don’t know the story of Phantom of the Opera. For that reason I’m not going to give the plot away here.
I will tell you that the story centres on a rather dreamy, fragile young woman. Christine is a member of the chorus of the Paris Opera sometime in the 19th century.Her father was a famous musician and before he died he promised he would send her ‘the angel of music’ to take care of her. Suffice to say what she believes to be the angel turns out not to be quite what she thinks. Drawn to the Phantom yet repulsed by him Christine has to make a choice.
The story is full of sweeping romantic emotions and gothic fantasy. Tragedy and pathos intertwine as we see what formed the monster that the Phantom has become.
I think the Paris setting works well because it is the ultimate, romantic city. I don’t mean the soft romantic comedy sort of romance. I mean Romantic with a capital R, gothic trappings and plenty of angst! The production taps into that idea of Paris, making me think of those overgrown cemeteries and pale, doomed young women who are half in love with death.
I love the idea that below the Paris Opera there’s might be a vast subterranean lake. It is like something from a fairy tale.
Phantom of the Opera is a Classic
It was a glorious night of extravagant musical theatre. We came out of the theatre into the London night with that lovely feeling that only comes from seeing a good show. I wasn’t alone either. All around me people were talking about what a great evening it had been and how much they’d enjoyed it. The chap next to me certainly had as I’d gradually noticed he was very quietly singing along through the whole show! (He had a nice voice and it was very quiet so not a bit annoying!)
Even on a cold Monday evening in January the West End is buzzing as people come out of the shows. I felt quite envious of those who weren’t off to catch a train but were heading for their hotels. Too hyped up to go straight home, we wandered off in search of an after-theatre supper and a chance to talk over the evening. A couple of days later I’m still humming The Music of the Night and remembering The Phantom Of The Opera.