By Kylie Wong (14A01B) and Lim Shaomin (14S03K)
Settle in your seats, ladies and gentlemen! The Phantom of the Opera is back in Singapore, and with the Marina Bay Sands theatre as the lush setting of its two month run, one can expect nothing less than to be dazzled and swept away by the masterpiece of well- known impresario Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber.
To those unfamiliar with the story, Phantom is centered on the destructively passionate love the Phantom has for young Christine Daae, whose voice he has trained since she was little. Believing the Phantom to be her ‘angel of music’ at first, Christine is unaware of his all-consuming love for her until the arrival of her childhood sweetheart Raoul, the Vicomte De Chagny. Between following her dreams of being a Prima Donna of the opera, escaping the clutches of her jealous maestro, and spending time with the love-struck Vicomte, Christine is ‘twisted every way’.
In this, Claire Lyon navigates her role as Christine admirably. Being one of the few actresses in the world to have been involved in both Phantom and its sequel Love Never Dies (where she understudied the role of Christine), she is no stranger to the demands of the role. Her crystalline soprano soars in the fluid cadenza at the end of Think of Me, the famous E6 (the highest note in the show) during the title song, and in the high tessitura and emotive passages during Wishing.
Brad Little is no stranger to performing as the Phantom- as one of only four men to have performed the role more than 2000 times, his interpretation of the Phantom is executed with every nuance of emotion and pain appropriate to the role. His vocal ability was most evident during the performance of Music of the Night- like Christine, the audience was equal parts enthralled, entranced and enchanted. I Remember/ Stranger than you dreamt it saw a golden voice flush with tenderness turn into a deluge of angry accusations flung rapidly at the overly- curious Christine, and transform again into a plaintive wail of agony and grief as he struggles to hide his deformity from his lovely protégé after the unmasking.
Anthony Downing plays the handsome Vicomte, just as determined as the Phantom to claim Christine’s heart as his own. Valiant, rich and handsome, the Vicomte De Chagny is every girls’ Prince Charming- the knight in shining armour come to whisk the damsel in distress away from the clutches of a monster. As Christine and Raoul exchange vows of love on the rooftop of the Opera Garnier in a sweet duet (All I Ask of You), we seethe on behalf of the Phantom, cursing Raoul for his untimely appearance as patron of the Opera house and Christine, for falling for him so easily. Act 1 thus comes to an end with the Phantom’s threat of revenge over Christine’s apparent betrayal.
Act 2 begins with the Masquerade Ball, six months after the events in Act 1. The entire cast is present and brilliantly attired; the voluptuous reigning diva Carlotta and her admirer Piangi, the matronly ballet mistress Madame Giry, her daughter Meg, and the titular heads of the opera house, Andre and Firmin all join in the festivities, hoping the Phantom would have disappeared for good after his half- year absence. A stellar show requires a strong supporting cast, and in Phantom, there is no doubt that the supporting cast members are more than able to do the heavy lifting along with the main characters.
Despite the ability of the actors, however, little could be done about the lack of chemistry between Little and Lyon. As Joel Schumacher (director of the 2004 Phantom of the Opera movie) had so aptly put it- “Christine’s relationship with Raoul is her romantic awakening as a teenager, but her pull towards the phantom is a sexual, soulful union.” There was nothing sexy or soulful about the scenes between Christine and the Phantom, not even during the Point of No Return, arguably the most sensual song in the set with lines like ‘our passion play has now at last begun/ how long should we two wait before we’re one?’. Little and Lyon were brilliant individually, but lacked that essential spark during their scenes together.
High expectations might come from most phans familiar with Sierra Boggess, Ramin Karimloo, John Owen- Jones and many more famous Phantom alums. Regardless of whether one enters the Marina Bay Sands theatre skeptical or hopeful, they would most likely leave it satisfied. Brad Little, in particular, was a delightful surprise- we see him at his best during the worst of the Phantom in the Final Lair scene. Most heartbreaking is when the Phantom tells Christine he loves her for the first (and perhaps the last) time; his quiet declaration belying the intensity of the roiling emotions that must be present within him. At the end of the show, the stark white mask that Meg Giry finds is all that is left of the Phantom, and the scarlet curtains swish close to thunderous applause. Emotions ran amok as the audience struggled to come to terms with the less than favourable resolution between the Phantom and Christine. For those wishing for a happier ending, there is always the sequel to Phantom- Love Never Dies, a 2010 production centered around the lives of the Phantom, Christine and Raoul ten years after the original. (The Australian production is available on YouTube, and much recommended over the original London one, which performed badly in ticket sales.)
A show first performed in 1986, a love story that has endured the ever- changing scene of musical theatre, the Phantom of the Opera is a show for everyone, and will touch even the hardest of hearts. All in all, nothing short of a phantastic production!
*Phantom of the Opera ends its run in Singapore on 1st September 2013