Monday, June 3, 2019

Review: Phantom of the Opera

Review by Jeremy Lee

This show needs no introduction, whether you’re a musical theatre nerd or casual show goer. Even millennials whose idea of legit musical theatre is Hamilton, The Book of Mormon or Dear Evan Hansen would surely know and love what has been dubbed the world’s most popular musical. And now classic favourite The Phantom of the Opera is back in Singapore, having been playing at the Marina Bay Sands since April courtesy of the folks at Base Entertainment Asia, we can let its lush melodies and gothic stylings enchant us once again.

Arguably Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest work, Phantom has won accolades galore, including Tony and Olivier Awards. It’s also the longest-running show in Broadway history, having opened in January 1988 and is still currently running now after more than 30 years. Yup, a baby born on its opening night would be a full-grown adult by now.

But people don’t watch the show for its awards, they watch it for an unparalleled experience; a few hours immersed in the world of the Paris Opera House and the dangerous games of the Phantom. So how does the current production running in Singapore match up?

The good news is what we love about the epic musical is still there -- the hit songs of course, the gorgeous costumes and the dark yet hauntingly beautiful sets (the Phantom’s labyrinth with candles and a pipe organ, the roof of the opera house with a creepy angel watching over proceedings and a forlorn cemetery). The famous chandelier is still there, and it still (spolier alert) plunges at the end of Act 1, though a bit too slowly for my taste -- we’re told that its speed depends on the production and venue.

Nevertheless, while all the good things we have come to love about the show remain there have been some changes. The sets and costumes have been updated, as well as the special effects and technology. (Real theatrical magic is required for The Phantom to vanish in a puff of smoke during the masquerade ball, you know.) Rest assured, though, audiences won’t notice any decline in the wonder and magic of the show.

And what of the performances? Jonathan Roxmouth as the titular Phantom is enchanting and a delight to watch and listen to. A consummate actor indeed, despite his handsome face being tragically covered by a mask and grotesque stage make-up, he conveys the protagonist/antagonist’s magnetic appeal and deadly pathos with just his voice and his body language. One can almost swim in his passion for Christine and his desire for a normal life.

Additionally, Roxmouth makes the role his own by eschewing the breathy yet ethereal vocals of original Phantom Michael Crawford, instead twirling his strong and commanding voice around each luscious note of the score. With his performance, he shows himself to be one of the best Phantoms the world has had the privilege of watching.

While Meghan Picerno as Christine looks the part, with her dewy eyes portraying the hapless heroine to a tee. Vocally, however, she doesn’t nail the high notes as effortlessly as you would think Christine would. However, the role is a tough act to follow -- how many can match up to the distinctive voice of original Christine Sarah Brightman?

Matt Leisy as Raoul has a strong, pleasing voice and boyish charm that instantly gives him a rapport with the equally bright-eyed Christine and makes their romance believable. Unsurprisingly, the youthful-looking British-American is more convincing in his scenes romancing Christine than plotting with the owners to bring down the Phantom.

Among the supporting characters, Beverley Chiat stands out as prima donna Carlotta. In a role designed to be the comic relief scene-stealer, Chiat hams it up superbly, with her most raucous scenes as the foil to Christine as they perform in the fictional opera Il Muto (the famous croaking scene) and her snide remarks while rehearsing for Don Juan Triumphant. It’s to her credit that she manages to stand out during these minor scenes, and in fact, her amazing voice, which scales piercing heights with ease, will make the audience wonder how Christine is supposed to be the better singer.

Despite this being the fourth time the Phantom has graced our shores, the quality of the productions that come in and our love for the musical show no signs of diminishing -- the show opened to a roaring crowd, many of whom we suspect have seen the show more than once. The show is running till 8 June, so if you haven’t seen the current run yet, or if you want to catch a repeat performance, there’s limited time left to secure tickets!

Phantom of the Opera runs till 8 June 2019. Tickets are available at SISTIC!