The Phantom of the Opera is a musical that endures, even in the pouring rain of Sydney
The Phantom of the Opera has been around for so long that you would think it would be difficult to change it in a way that people who have seen it before have a new experience.
But in a world first, the production takes place outdoors at Mrs Macquaries Point with the idyllic backdrop of Sydney Harbour. Sounds good – until you factor in the type of weather Sydney is currently experiencing.
Maree Johnson is taking a break from the role of Madame Giry in the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera, to play the same role in the show’s production of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour.
Johnson has a long history with the musical – she was in the original Melbourne production in 1990 as the alternate Christine – the female lead.
She then reprized the role of Christine in Sydney, before moving to the United States and taking on the role of Madame Giry in 2017.
“So time flies,” Johnson said.
“You get a little older, get a little wiser, then you age into Madame Giry, 25 years later.”
Johnson’s run on Broadway was cut short by the pandemic in 2020.
“It was the most iconic stop,” she said
“We closed in May 2020.
“I had COVID in May 2020 a few days after closing.”
Johnson said the cast and crew believe they could be closed for two to three weeks. Eighteen months later, New York has reopened and the show continued in October 2021.
She said it was the first time The Phantom of the Opera ended like this in its history.
“Phantom has been touring Broadway for so long.
“They are about to celebrate their 35th anniversary on January 26, 2023.
“The show never stopped.”
In Sydney, the show must go on
Back in her hometown of Sydney, the show continued despite the torrential rain.
“We don’t have a roof, so we’re totally exposed,” Johnson said.
“So there’s a high sense of energy to that.
“There’s also a high engagement to it, because it’s so much bigger, and you’re out there with nature, the wind, you’re out there with the rain.
“Amazingly, we only had one show where we had to stop.
“And that was towards the end of act two.”
Johnson said there were a lot of effects in the theatrical staging of the show.
“You’ve got fire, you’ve got pyro, you’ve got trucks spinning, you’ve got cranes flying into pieces of the set.
If you want to go see the show, be prepared for rain
It’s not just the actors who have to deal with the weather; the audience is seated in an area that is not covered.
Simon Phillips is the director specially chosen by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber to create this new version of the famous musical.
It’s his job to re-imagine all the classic Phantom of the Opera moments in the spirit of Sydney Harbour.
He said working outside has certainly brought its challenges.
“A world of pain, really,” he said.
“I don’t need to tell you what the weather has been like in Sydney for the past two months.
“It was just awful.
“We had around 28 tonnes of mud that needed to be removed from the site.
“We lost a lot of technology due to the weather.
“We’ve had nights when the whole orchestra pit, which sits below the harbor stage, was just flooded with water, while electrical storms raged upstairs and no one was allowed inside. produce for safety reasons.”
It’s worth it if you hang on
He said lightning is the only reason production has to stop. But the show and rehearsals can continue in torrential rain.
When time isn’t an issue — like on opening night — the experience, he says, is extraordinary for everyone involved and there’s a real buzz in the crowd.
“There is such a thrill in the air to be out on the harbour, the famous sight in the background and such a well-known and popular work as The Phantom of the Opera, with the storytelling, murder and mayhem .
“It just felt like a great show to do in that setting.”
Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour’s The Phantom of the Opera will run until April 24.