The Phantom of the Opera
Tour - The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
This is a musical that needs no introduction, but I was interested in seeing this revamped touring production and how it would compare to the London production. I saw the latter about four years ago. I have never really been a fan of this musical, and lately I have been appreciating Stephen Sondheim more than Andrew Lloyd Webber. However I do recognise that this musical is outstanding and would agree that it deserves its 26 year run.
I have read the numerous complaints that this lesser production has deviated from the original. Having seen this production I would agree that some of the changes work and others do not. Yes, there are moments that did not make sense, Stranger Than You Dreamt It in particular. Yes, it was disappointing that the chandelier did not fall, though I thought the production team nicely replicated the Overture as much as they could. Yet for a touring production in this day and age, this production excelled at what it could do with the musical for the average theatre goer.
If there is a reason why this production should be seen, it is to see the leading performances. Earl Carpenter proves to be a very expressive phantom. In this production the character is shown to be more human and indeed during The Music of Night he is shown tutoring Christine Daae as her Angel of Music. At the same time Early was caring, masterful and even flirtatious at one point. He shows the phantom's yearning for love but by the end he becomes a pathetic creature. Elsewhere, Earl would fly into fits of rage and at times would twist the lyrics with menace.
Alternate Olivia Brereton is lovely as the innocent Christine Daae. By the time she sings Wishing you Were Somehow Here Again she is overwhelmed with despair and uncertainty but matures with growing resolution. Simon Bailey is a boyish, honorable, and at times impatient Raoul, though sometimes his singing is slightly erratic.
The rest of the cast is good. Angela M Caesar sings her songs well enough as Carlotta, though she is a bit breathy at other times in the musical. Andy Hockley and Simon Green sadly did not leave much of an impression as the managers and produced a rather dry Notes. Elizabeth Marsh did not give a subtle portrayal of Madame Giry and her outbursts were sudden.
If I do have a problem with the production values it is that a lot happens on the stage. What struck me about the London production was there were moments when a lot of the stage was in darkness whilst the actors would only use a portion of the stage. A lot of the scenes were therefore minimalistic, set-wise, and it gave the musical an enigmatic edge. In this production the stage was taken up by circular, rotating walls that moved around the stage and revealed scenes from within. Together with other sets they did look cheap, whilst taking away the mystery from the musical.
Overall I do think this is a good production, and the changes to the original production do not instantly make this production bad. The lead performances and a number of the special effects alone, make this musical worth seeing for itself. For newcomers this is worth a Low Full Price just to hear the music. I myself am glad that I saw it but would have rather paid to see it at a High Matinee.