Words: Simon Button; pictures: Johan Persson
Breathtaking at the best of times, the chandelier’s ascent into the rafters at the start of The Phantom of the Opera now seems like the eighth wonder of the world.
Partly that’s because it has, like everything else in this reopening of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s warhorse of a show, been given a spruce-up. But it’s mainly because Phantom’s return to the West End stage is proof positive that theatre really is back when for a long time it felt it might never be.
The rejigs are subtle but impressive. The chandelier burns brighter, the underground lake is mistier, the masquerade ball looks even more colourful, the sets seem bigger and the sound system has been upgraded so that (despite a slimmed-down orchestra) the music soars.
Lucy St Louis and Killian Donnelly (Photo: Johan Persson)
So do the voices. Lloyd Webber’s lush score has never been more beautifully sung. Lucy St. Louis has perfect diction and a lovely ethereal quality as Christine, the opera-singing muse to Killian Donnelly’s haunted and haunting Phantom.
His ‘Music of the Night’ is sublime, her ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ deeply moving, and their duetted descent into his subterranean lair to the title track truly thrilling.
Everyone else in the cast works at full throttle, inspired by the magnificent music and also no doubt by being back at work.
(Photo: Johan Persson)
The show’s flaws remain the same. The first half drags a bit and having everything sung-through opera style means some of the storytelling gets muddled.
I also wish Lloyd Webber had seized the chance to move the show from Her Majesty’s Theatre, where it has been playing since 1986, to a theatre with better sightlines and less cramped seats.
But oh that music! And wow, that chandelier!
Welcome back, Phantom. We’ve missed you.
The Phantom of the Opera is at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London. For great deals on tickets and shows click here.