‘Phantom of the Opera’ was breathtaking.
It’s one of the world’s best-loved musicals with a score that gets into the very bones of all theatre lovers, and Lynch and Paterson has successfully continued the show’s legacy.
Based on the classic novel ‘Le Fantôme de L’Opéra’ by Gaston Leroux, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror for the love of a young soprano.
Australia has been spoilt with Phantom this year, enjoying performances at the Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Arts Centre, and now, Lynch and Paterson’s production at the Twelfth Night Theatre.
Director Jason Ward Kennedy successfully brought to life all the iconic aspects you would hope for from ‘The Phantom of the Opera’: the boat ride to the lair, the mirror and of course, the chandelier. Staging a production of this magnitude at the Twelfth Night Theatre is no easy feat, but Kennedy did a commendable job of transforming the space into the Paris Opera House. A particularly effective piece of direction was utilising levels in all aspects of the theatre, including many of the characters walking through the audience to get to the stage (and in one particular scene, terrifying audience members with their masks).
Choreography by Jayden Grogan was a treat to watch, particularly from the ballet chorus. Grogan did a fantastic job of tailoring movement to the theatre. In full ensemble numbers such as ‘Masquerade’, Grogan embraced the tightly packed space and created highly effective small synchronised movements. Grogan also got to showcase his incredible ballet moves among the chorus.
Of course, what is ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ without its music? Undoubtedly the highlight of the show was the 37-piece orchestra. Conducted by Lucas D Lynch, the Cadenza Chamber Players filled the Twelfth Night Theatre with goosebump-inducing music. Musical direction by Lynch was highly nuanced and delivered an exquisite and colourful sound.
As the title character, Nathan Keen embodied both the mysterious Phantom tucked away in the shadows and the vulnerable, awkward man in the light. Keen’s enchanting vocals easily held the audience under his spell. His performance of ‘Music of the Night’ was mesmerising.
Samantha Paterson as Christine Daae was ethereal. Paterson portrayed a very believable young woman who was entranced by her angel of music. Her angelic voice soared through the iconic score. A performance highlight was ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ where Paterson shone and demonstrated the true depth of Christine’s character.
Jake Lyle was a standout as Christine’s lover Vicomte Raoul de Chagny. With a commanding voice and presence, he was a calm and reassuring anchor among the chaos that ensued at the Paris Opera House. His love for Christine was entirely believable and while many renditions of this musical seem to push the Phantom and Christine “romance”, this production left no doubt in anyone’s mind that Raoul was certainly the only option.
Dominique Fegan delivered some of the show’s most dynamic vocals as former leading soprano of the Paris Opera House, Carlotta. Chloe Kiloh gave a sweet and innocent portrayal of Meg Giry, Christine’s best friend. Kiloh and Paterson had a very natural chemistry. Jo Williams portrayed her mother, Madame Giry, with enigmatic assertiveness and elegance.
Surprise show-stealer was Lionel Theunissen as Monsieur Firmin. Theunissen demonstrated divine vocals, and alongside Darcy Rhodes as Monsieur Andre, the duo injected a strong jolt of comic relief into the melodic melodrama. They committed every second of their time on stage to smashing their comic timing.
Rounding out the cast were the ensemble and ballet chorus. While not appearing on stage as a whole group for much of the show, the ensemble played crucial supporting roles and delivered flawless vocals. Special mention has to go to James Lennox who showcased some beautiful vocals as the choirmaster.
One of the most exciting features of this production was the incorporation of the iconic chandelier. Its reveal at the beginning of the show was timed to perfection, with spine chilling pyrotechnics that set the tone for the spectacle to come.
With a cast of over 40 and most performers playing multiple characters, costuming a show like this was an enormous endeavour. Anita Sweeney’s extravagant costumes paid homage to the original productions, like the style of the ballet leotards and Christine’s white gown. Particularly stunning costumes were the black and red outfits in ‘Point of No Return’ which were reminiscent of operas like ‘Carmen’.
The set consisted of two large opera boxes on both sides of the stage where characters would watch the performances. These were highly effective at bringing the Paris Opera House to life, but left little room on the stage for scenes with multiple props or cast members. However, Kennedy’s direction adapted to the space and made the scenes work. For the performances at the Paris Opera House, a projection was used as the upstage backdrop to create different settings.
Another unique aspect of this production was the lighting design by Tom Dodds. Whenever the Phantom left a note or appeared unexpectedly at the Opera House, the lights turned red. This, combined with the orchestra, really heightened the melodrama.
As to be expected on opening night, there were some minor staging mishaps. At times, scene transitions took a while to complete and the cast in the wings could be seen, but there is no doubt that these small glitches will be rectified as the season progresses.
Since its creation, Lynch and Paterson have consistently delivered first-rate productions, and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is no exception. Between breathtaking vocals, a masterful orchestra and passionate performers, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is an absolute must-see show.
‘The Phantom of the Opera’ haunts the Twelfth Night Theatre until Sunday 20 November. The season has sold out, but to keep up to date with new tickets or future productions, visit the Lynch and Paterson website.