Review: The phantom of the opera


by Mike Matthaiakis

The Phantom of the Opera“, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s enduring masterpiece, continues to cast its haunting spell as an indisputable classic in the world of musical theatre. The narrative unfolds within the grandeur of an opera house, where the mysterious Phantom lurks, leaving behind tales that have become common gossip among the casts. As rehearsals unfold, Christine, an unknown chorus girl, is thrust into the lead role, becoming entangled in a tale of manipulation, desire, and control.

This musical, known for its reputation as the ultimate romantic spectacle, remains a timeless favorite, though viewing it through the lens of the #MeToo era adds nuanced layers to the experience. The Phantom’s manipulation and obsessive control over Christine, depicted through potent lyrics like “You will curse the day you did not do / All that the Phantom asked of you,” evoke a discomfort that resonates in contemporary conversations about consent and agency.

The roles of the Phantom and Christine, originated by Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, have become iconic, attracting exceptional performers like Ben Lewis and Kelly Mathieson in the current production. Lewis commands the stage with the Phantom’s menacing presence, expertly navigating the character’s deluded pain in more tender moments. Mathieson’s portrayal of Christine captures a delicate innocence, bringing conviction to one of musical theatre’s most challenging roles.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score remains a highlight, with songs that revolutionized musical theatre and continue to resonate. While the ’80s synth-opera fusion may feel somewhat dated, the powerful descending motifs and satisfying resolved phrases in numbers like “The Point of No Return” are undeniably spine-tingling. The enduring impact of the score is a testament to Lloyd Webber’s musical genius.

Watching the production today, one can’t help but marvel at its over-the-top grandeur, complete with iconic set pieces, fireballs, and even an elephant. While some elements may elicit a chuckle at their audacity, the show’s confidence in pulling off such theatrical feats is commendable. It’s a testament to the groundbreaking nature of “The Phantom of the Opera,” laying the foundation for future productions like “Bat Out of Hell.”

Even as we contemplate how the musical would be received as a new work today, there’s no denying its wild, joyous energy that continues to captivate audiences. “The Phantom of the Opera” stands proud as the crown jewel of the West End, a testament to the enduring power of its story, music, and theatrical spectacle.

The phantom of the opera is playing at His Majesty’s Theatre.