Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre

02 Jun

There are lots of good things about having a sister, but maybe the best one is that there’s nobody else in the world who would text me on a Wednesday afternoon to say “I want to see Phantom tonight. Are you coming? I’m paying.”

I’d seen it twice before (as had she: in fact, I’ve only ever been to see it with her, at her instigation), but the last time was a while ago and it turned out I’d forgotten quite a lot of it, which was a pleasant surprise – although the bits I remembered were the best bits, which are still the best bits even when you know what’s going to happen.

And it has a lot of best bits. Even now, after 25 years, it’s as dramatic a piece of stagecraft as anything I’ve seen: full of spectacle and illusion and trompe l’oeil (although I think that on the third pass I finally managed to figure out how all the tricks are done), and impressively ambitious in scale. And it’s smart. As the action breathlessly flits from Christine’s dressing room to the Phantom’s lair to a full-scale operatic performance from Hannibal, complete with giant elephant, we go from silent observers to members of the cast, playing the audience at the Opéra and applauding a performance we haven’t really seen. It’s clever and cheeky and it works.

I don’t want to talk about the music, because you already know it. I love it, but I can see why people wouldn’t, and there is a certain amount of mental juggling required to accept Andrew Lloyd Webber’s poppy compositions in the context of 19th century opera. I think you have to be postmodern about these things.

I do want to talk about the singing, because Sofia Escobar is the loveliest and most enchanting Christine I’ve ever seen – and what’s more she sounds just like Sarah Brightman (apart from her slight accent, which only adds to the charm). The casting director must have jumped for joy when they found her. John Owen-Jones is an appropriately menacing Phantom and has a voice to die for, and it’s not his fault he’s not as handsome as Ramon Karimloo, whom I hope one day gets to play this version of the character, rather than the toothless, daddish Phantom of Love Never Dies. Will Barratt and Wendy Ferguson are excellent as Raoul and Carlotta, and I reserve a special mention for Cheryl McAvoy as Madame Giry, because it’s the hardest-working, least-rewarding part in the piece, and she shines, despite having to wear all black and frown the whole time.

So I think I enjoyed it more this time around than ever before – but bear in mind that, as I have attested elsewhere, I am slightly obsessed with this show. That said, even if you don’t like what Phantom of the Opera does, it still does it better than anyone else.

[A note: I’ve said this before, but if you go, try to make sure you sit in the stalls, but not in the front few rows or the back few rows. The action happens all over the theatre, and the middle section of the stalls is the optimum spot for seeing everything.]


Posted by on June 2, 2011 in Theatre


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6 responses to “Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre

  1. Kate

    June 4, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    I really have to find someone with whom to see Phantom; I’m desperate to do so and all the more after this. Oh, for a sister!

    Ramin Karimloo did a couple of years in Phantom before Love Never Dies – presumably ALW sees it as promotion, though I don’t think anyone else does. He’s going to be playing the original Phantom again in the 25th Anniversary Concert in October. He’s said it’ll be the last time he plays either Phantom so you might want to grab your chance. I think I need to see Proper Phantom *and* LND before then. He was so very lovely as Enjolras in the 25th Anniversary Les Mis.

  2. elsiem

    June 7, 2011 at 9:07 am

    I will come to all of those things with you, please. I didn’t realise Ramon Karimloo had played the Phantom in the west end already; I thought he’d played the bastardised Las Vegas version, but that must have been Sierra Boggess, whose name is a lot of fun to type. Sierra Boggess.

  3. Kate

    June 7, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    If you really think you can stand to do Phantom again, then I shall take you up on it! And yes, Sierra Boggess is a brilliantly mad name. It sounds like the name of a pretend American film star from an 80s British sitcom.

  4. I Be Miss Awesome

    February 8, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Hi there. I have booked tickets for this show this Saturday at Her Majesty’s Theatre. The seats are in grand circle F26 and F27. Do you know if this would be a good view? I hear most action from the phantom takes place high up in some scenes. Yet I’m worried if we will get a poor view of the play!

  5. elsiem

    February 8, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    A terrific site for checking how good your theatre seats are is – it shows the layout of pretty much every London theatre and lets you know whether other people who’ve sat in those seats think they’re good value. I haven’t ever sat near your seats in the Grand Circle, but theatremonkey says they’re fine. Enjoy the show!

  6. I Be Miss Awesome

    February 8, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Merci 🙂

    Yeah I checked that site, just wanted to check with few bloggers who have seen the show just so I know how it is inside.

    Thanks again!


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