Friday, January 11, 2013

REVIEW: "NEW" The Phantom of the Opera (Cardiff)

Wales Millenium Centre (Cardiff), Wednesday December 26

On to the 10th show of my 14 shows in 13 days marathon. You have to give it to Cameron Mackintosh when it comes to squeezing the very last drop out of a material. Back in 2007, I saw the “new” production of Miss Saigon; and this time, it was also the “new” production of The Phantom of the Opera. What these two productions have in common is that they are scaled down to either fit in smaller theatre or to make it easier for the production to tour. Needless to say, the iconic elements of the original productions such as landing helicopter or crashing chandelier were all gone to lesser effects. Mackintosh can claim “new” but definitely not “better” or “improved”.

In 1991, I saw The Phantom of the Opera at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne. In fact, if I am not wrong, it starred Anthony Warlow (Phantom) and Marina Prior (Christine). It was my first “original staging” musical; and what I meant by that is that I have seen other musicals before then, but they were all “new” production done by local theatre companies and not the “clone” of the original. I was sitting at the third row center from the front and was so shocked and thrilled when the chandelier came swooping above my head and crashing onto the stage... mind you, I didn’t know that will happen (the benefit of pre-internet/YouTube age). 22 years later, I continue to claim that was the time that made me become a fanatic of musicals! Since then, I saw the same staging done in Broadway and in Hong Kong.

The major changes in this new production are in the set and scene. Gone are the likes of huge dust covers that wrap the proscenium, the slow ascension of the chandelier at the start, the crashing of the chandelier onto the stage, the slow appearance of the candelabras during the boat journey. It packed a compact set design that showcased multiple configurations from a few complex pieces through the creative use of a revolving stage. One of the more impressive concepts was the magical protrusion and withdrawal of the steps leading down from a catwalk (elevated platform way above the theatre and not a fashion runway) to the boat… still, it was a good alternative, but not a better one.

I also detected some changes in terms of interpretation of a few songs (whether these were designed for this new production or just personal interpretation of the cast, I am not sure). One of the more obvious one is All I Ask of You. Instead of the usual rendition as romantic propositions of two lovers, it became more of a romantic squabble turn plea… and this I actually prefer as it created a bit more depth in that relationship.

As for the performers, Earl Carpenter as the Phantom gave a decent performance. His Phantom was dramatically more effective than vocally. Likewise with Katie Hall. Simon Bailey’s Raoul was vocally strong but not exactly a very sympathetic character. Overall, the performers were good, but not great. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music remained wonderful and between the old and new production… only choose new if you can’t get old.
The Phantom of the Opera
UK Tour - With a brilliant new design by Paul Brown, costumes by the much missed Maria Björnson, a new staging by Laurence Connor, and with new choreography by Scott Ambler

Creative Team:
Composer - Andrew Lloyd Webber
Producer - Cameron Mackintosh
Producer - The Really Useful Theatre Company
Lyrics - Charles Hart
Book & Additional Lyrics - Richard Stilgoe
Orchestrations - David Cullen
Director - Laurence Connor
Choreographer - Scott Ambler
Scenic Designer - Paul Brown
Costume Designer - Maria Björnson
Lighting Designer - Paule Constable
Sound Designer - Mick Potter
Costume Co-Ordinator for the late Maria Björnson - Christine Rowland
Projection Designer - Nina Dunn
Musical Supervisor - John Rigby
Matthew Bourne - Production Overseen by
Associate Director - Adrian Sarple
Associate Choreographer - Pia Driver
Associate Sound Designer - Paul Gatehouse
Illusionist - Paul Kieve
Wig Creator - Angela Cobbin

Cast includes:
Earl Carpenter – The Phantom
Katie Hall – Christine Daae
Simon Bailey - Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny
Angela M. Caesar - Carlotta Giudicelli
Andy Hockley - Monsieur Firmin
Simon Green - Monsieur André
Elizabeth Marsh - Madame Giry
Vincent Pirillo - Ubaldo Piangi
Hannah Cadec – Meg Giry
The Ballet Chorus of the Opera Populaire
  • Caroline Crawley
  • Rachael Crocker
  • Cindy Corrine
  • Ciunfrini Sophie Hartley
  • Jamie McDonald
  • Emma Roberts-Simms
  • Alistair Barron
  • Michael Diana
  • Lisel Dowsett
  • Hannah Grace
  • Siani Owen
  • James Pullum
  • Rosie Bell
  • James Bisp
  • Olivia Brereton
  • Greg Castiglioni
  • Leigh Rhianon Coggins
  • A C Garcia
  • Sam Harrison
  • Kirk Jameson
  • Sarah Joyce
  • Henry Grant Kerswell
  • Lee Ormsby
  • David Phipps-Davis
  • Claire Platt
  • Ben Sleep
  • Richard Woodford

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