The Phantom of the Opera is the second longest running West End musical, and it’s easy to see why. With its mixture of love, drama, mystery and murder, the musical enthrals and engages throughout. The production values of the show are dramatic, with a fantastic cast and ensemble.
Gerónimo Rauch was outstanding as the Phantom. His voice filled the theatre, and his spine-tingling vocals impressed throughout the whole production. His acting was on point, and his makeup was visually arresting. After two years of playing Christine on the West End stage, Sofia Escobar has honed the character. She is undoubtedly a fantastic singer – her vocal acrobatics were amazing as she matched the potential of the beautiful music of the show. As my companion remarked “I couldn’t scream as high as she can sing.” Sean Palmer played Raoul charmingly, with small touches here and there which convinced of his sincerity. His singing was consistent, and ‘All I Ask of You’, his duet with Christine, was a highlight of the first half.
In terms of casting, my only complaint would be the inconsistency in the accents of the cast. Palmer sounded uncompromisingly English whenever he spoke or sang. At points I found myself asking if Matthew from Downton Abbey was singing to me, which felt at odds with Escobar’s accent, which clearly hints at her Portuguese origins. Both are wonderful singers, but Escobar seems more in keeping with the setting of the play, which is clearly French, particularly as Raoul is meant to be the Viscount of Chagny, a region in France, not an English lord.
There were a few moments in the first half of the musical which fell a little flat. ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is one of my favourite songs from the musical, and I was a little disappointed with the transition from Christine’s bedroom to the Phantom’s underground lair. The prop transition took a little too long, and the absence of any actors on the stage, even with vocals echoing around the theatre. It jarred me out of the performance, and just felt a little ‘off’.
Similarly, at some points it did feel a little like the actors were competing with the orchestra. ‘Notes/Prima Donna’ turned into a mess of sound, as it was difficult to understand what each individual was singing as three different strands were intermingled unsuccessfully. The final moments of the first act of the show also felt a little anti-climactic. I understand perfectly why the chandelier can’t come crashing down wildly, but it just seemed to float down, which was more than a little less dramatic than expected.
However, the small faults in the first half were vastly overshadowed by the brilliance of the second half. ‘Masquerade/Why So Silent…?’ was a spectacle of drama and dance with beautiful costumes, and a fantastic ensemble performance. ‘The Point of No Return’ was the highlight of the whole performance – Rauch and Escobar played perfectly off one another, and their voices created something magical on the stage. The second act of the musical was completely enthralling.
A standout ensemble, and a spectacular second act make this show a must-see production.