A year after opening in Plymouth, Cameron Mackintosh's new touring production of The Phantom Of The Opera has finally opened in Birmingham. Press Night was a most memorably celebrated event as the last venue of the tour and that Cameron Mackintosh appeared at a gala evening hosted by the theatre. The celebrations in Birmingham ran simultaneously with the 11,000th performance of the show at Her Majesty's Theatre in London.
I'm not unfamiliar with The Phantom Of The Opera but last night was the first time I had actually seen the show on stage and perhaps this worked in my favour as regular 'phans' were quick to compare with "the brilliant original". This is a complete re-staging of the London production and with some members of the original creative team sadly no longer with us, fresh eyes have re-imagined Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterpiece.
Sitting directly underneath lot 666, the chandelier of the Paris Opera House as it illuminates during the chilling overture is just one of those theatrical moments you don't forget. The staging and Paul Brown's set is of magnificent proportions. From the beautifully detailed backcloths and opulence of a gold proscenium the set revolves to reveal dark and dirty backstage corridors and a crumbling fly-floor. There are floating candles above a stairway of planks down to the Phantom's lair seeming to appear magically out of the wall as he and Christine descend.
The scene that I've heard does suffer from the confines of touring (and this production does well to eradicate any touring limits) is the Masquerade ballroom. Grand in its use of gold statues and mirrors, there is no staircase as in Maria Björnson's original and for the Phantom's interruption a plainer alternative to the skull mask. But not having seen the original I could fully appreciate it's beauty. The effects are second to none, not only does the Phantom's ability to produce fireballs from the floor heat things up but the spectacular finale to Act I sees the fate of the chandelier explode in spectacular fashion. The grandeur of the design combined with Paule Constable's lighting and Mick Potter's beautiful yet haunting sound ensures that you don't get better touring productions than this - it's far superior.
Angela M Caeser is impeccably trained and impresses as Carlotta - also providing the comedic moments which is welcome relief from the warnings of Buquet (Lee Ormsby) and the cold, draconian Madame Giry (Elizabeth Marsh). Simon Bailey is Raoul and presents a solid character, mastering the vocals and providing Christine with a desirable lover. Katie Hall is the beautiful soprano and her Christine is reminiscent of Sierra Boggess at the world-renowned 25th Anniversary performance. At her most passionate and endearing in 'Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again'. Hall's duets with Bailey emanate a beautiful romance but with the Phantom vocals are tested chillingly to the extreme. Earl Carpenter first took over the role of the Phantom full time in the London production in 2005 - giving over 1000 performances. This experience is most evident in his expert portrayal. Caring and passionate, frightening and desperate - every phase of this Phantom's struggle leaves your heart aching.
The Birmingham Hippodrome is the final venue of the UK Tour before plans of moving to America. This new production of the Phantom Of The Opera can only be seen until 4th May 2013. Book tickets here.
Promotional Tour Trailer: