‘The Phantom…’ at the Sydney Opera House delivers the magic: review
You might have heard a pin drop at the Opera Australia production opening gala The Phantom of the Opera August 26 at the Joan Sutherland Theater at the Sydney Opera House.
The audience was filled with celebrity Sydneysiders in bow ties and dresses, but the real stars of the evening were Josh Piterman, Amy Manford and Blake Bowden.
This trio of truly gifted performers, surrounded by a stunning cast and backing orchestra, forcefully delivered the musical’s signature songs, music of the night, Think of me, All I ask of youthe marvelously beautiful Masquerade, and of course the main title track, with vitality and power.
Like the Phantom, Christine and Raoul, these three performers ripped through the roof of the Opera, with their rich voices hitting every corner of the theatre.
Obsessive and dangerous love
This new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical mega-adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s novel, overseen by producer Cameron Mackintosh and director Seth Sklar-Heyn is simply superb on every level.
If the story of an obsessive and dangerous love in 19th century Paris is now familiar to many, it is the exquisite attention to detail that delivers the magic of this new staging.
The 27-piece orchestra under the musical direction of Guy Simpson is phenomenal, and the production is even higher thanks to some truly glorious set design.
Paul Brown’s sets are simply spectacular. The damp darkness of the Phantom’s Lair, the opulent halls of Parisian society, the dressing rooms and stage of the Paris Opera, and the classic gondola stage are beautifully imagined. The movement of sets and the transition between scenes are expertly executed. And yes, the iconic chandelier is there in all its glory. When the chandelier is first revealed, it always elicits applause.
Creativity in the spotlight
Jill Parker’s lush costumes, recreating Tony Award-winning Maria Bjornson’s original designs, are stunning, and Angela Cobbin’s hair and wig design is spot on.
Lighting design by Tony Award winner Paule Constable and sound design by Mick Potter are also extraordinary, with superb video and projection design by Nina Dunn.
There is also a wonderful use of pyrotechnics throughout the show and of course the thrilling and iconic moment when the chandelier falls towards the heads of the audience always inspires awe.
There is so much creativity in the technical aspects of the show that one would expect it to overshadow the performers, but in the hands of such seasoned professionals, that doesn’t happen.
An iconic role
Josh Piterman, who debuted as the Ghost in the 2019 West End production, is brilliant and brings real pathos to the iconic role. You can feel his pain as the Phantom longs for Christine’s affection, a love that becomes obsessive and dangerous.
Amy Manford, who also recently performed the role of Christine Daaé in the West End production before returning home to reprise the role in Australia, is phenomenal. Her voice is simply spectacular, and she brings grace and strength to the role, and Blake Bowden, is just as fantastical and swooning as Raoul Vicomte de Chagny.
Giuseppina Grech in Carlotta Giudicelli, Jayde Westaby in Madame Giry, Andy Morton and David Whitney in Monsieur André and Monsieur Firman and Paul Tabone in Ubaldo Piangi are also fantastic in support, backed by a gifted ensemble. Scott Ambler’s choreography is also outstanding.
This production is so full of wonderful moments and such creativity and passion that it now ranks among my favorite theatrical experiences of all time.
The Phantom of the Opera runs at the Sydney Opera House until October 16 and continues at the Arts Center Melbourne from October 30.