production directed by Seth Sklar-Heyne for Opera Australia and The Really
Useful Group in association with Cameron Mackintosh.
Musical Director - Anthony Barnhill - Choreographed by Scott Ambler - Set Design by Paul Brown
Lighting design by Paule Constable - Costume Design by Maria Bjornson
Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House until 16th October.
It’s rather note-worthy
that Sydney is currently playing host to two Cameron Mackintosh productions of
classic musicals in “Mary Poppins” and “The Phantom Of The Opera”.
productions have been revised and updated to take advantage of advances in
technology which now make it possible to tour them more widely than before, and
therefore more available to even wider audiences who never had the chance to
see the original productions.
In the case
of “Phantom of the Opera”, Sydney audiences were treated to a spectacular
outdoor production earlier in the year in the Handa Opera On Sydney Harbour
series, for which Director, Simon Phillips and designer Gabriella Tylesova’s
were given carte blanche to devise a completely new production. A task they
achieved with spectacular success.
Opera Australia announced it would also stage “Phantom of the Opera” in the
Sydney Opera House later this year, there was a hope that this might be a
return to the original Harold Prince production first seen in Australia in 1990.
production, though still allegedly the original Hal Prince production, has been
described by critics as “a pale shadow of its original self “. The reason being
that during the pandemic, the original was stripped out of the theatre and the
set replaced with a new cheaper version with the orchestra halved from 27
players to just 14. Broadway, where the show has been running since 1988, is
now the only place where the original Hal Prince production can be seen in its
full glory as originally conceived.
|Josh Piterman (The Phantom) - Amy Manford (Christine Daae)
just unveiled in the Sydney opera house, is the ‘new’ Laurence Connor touring
version which has been touring the U.K and U.S. since 2012 and now restaged for
Opera Australia by Seth Sklar-Heyn, who’s been associated with this version since
its inception. Sklar-Heyn has taken advantage of opportunities offered by this season
in the Sydney Opera House to devise some of his own enhancements including
perhaps the most spectacular chandelier drop to date.
course “Phantom of the Opera” is not all about the chandelier. Therefore, although
still impressive, Connor’s vision for this show is rather less opulent than the
Hal Prince original, concentrating more on the story-telling than the
packaging. It features a versatile new setting designed by Paul Brown of which the
most memorable feature are the daunting
steps which appear one by one out of the shadows as the Phantom leads Christine
down to his lair.
Candles no longer emerge as their gondola
glides through the fog, and the Phantom’s lair under the opera house feels a
bit more sparsely furnished. The grand staircase for the “Masquerade” scene has
been jettisoned, and that scene is now staged on a flat ballroom floor. That scene
still remains spectacular mainly because this production retains the original
costume design by the late Maria Bjornson, although re-interpreted for this
production under the watchful eye of Jill Parker who began her career assisting
too, this production also retains the full orchestra; conducted by Anthony
Barnhill. Under his experienced guidance
the arrangements remain rich and thrilling. So much so that many of the
first-night audience stayed in their seats after the final curtain to savour
the lush play-out music.
already performed the role of The Phantom in the West End production, Josh
Piterman gives a striking, authoritative star performance as the character with
a penchant for coercive control who doesn’t hesitate to resort to murder to
achieve his desire to have his young protégé, Christine Daae, sing the lead in
his devilishly difficult opera. Piterman’s singing is masterful, his acting
persuasive, even managing to extract sympathy for the Phantom’s predicament in
his final scenes.
as the young dancer who unwittingly finds herself the object of the Phantom’s
obsession, Australian-American soprano, Amy Manford, has also played this role
on the West End. Possessing a beautiful singing voice, graceful presence and
refined acting skills, Manford is perfect casting for the role, creating a less
compliant Christine than usual, and wearing her many beautiful costumes with
|Blake Bowden (Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny) - Amy Manford (Christine Daae)
the Vicomte de Chagny, who’s in love with Christine and who almost becomes
another victim of the Phantom while attempting to rescue her from the Phantom’s
clutches, Blake Bowden also impresses with his fine voice and presence in the role.
Grech as the flighty diva, Carlotta Guidicelli, and Paul Tabone, as her tenor,
Ubaldo Piangi, not only sing superbly but
delight with their comedic skills, while David Whitney and Andy Morton
clearly revel in their roles as the unfortunate new managers of the opera
company. Jayde Westaby as the mysterious
ballet mistress, Madame Giry, and Mietta White as her daughter Meg, both offer
compelling characterisations to round out an outstanding supporting cast.
|Jayde Westaby (Madame Giry) - Mietta White (Meg Giry) - Blake Bowden (Raoul_
Giuseppina Grech ( Carlotta Guidicelli_ - Andy Morton ( Monsieur Andre)
Paul Tabone (Ubaldo Piangi) - David Whitney (Monsieur Firman)
So while this new iteration may not replace treasured memories of the original production for those with long memories, it certainly proved thrilling enough on opening night to evoke a spontaneous standing ovation from an excited audience eager to create its own memories of a one of the longest running musicals of all time.