So, last night I went to the cinema where I watched something truly special: a live stream of the 25th Anniversary Concert of the Phantom of the Opera from the Royal Albert Hall. It was something I wish I could’ve been there to see live myself as a fan of the musical who last saw it three years ago, but alas… it wasn’t to be. That said, as I’ll tell you now, the cinema was certainly the next best thing! One of the many things I love about Phantom is how grand and majestic it is, and the fact it seems unashamedly so. The costumes are colourful and opulent, the set is beautifully atmospheric (I LOVE the Phantom’s lair with all its candles and dry ice) and this is all weaved in along with a stunning score, lyrics and a phenomenal cast in order to for this glorious musical to work its magic, and last night’s show was certainly no exception to these rules 🙂 And thanks to some marvellous camera work, we were treated to some fantastic closeups so it felt like we were on stage with them!
First, let me say that the entire company were AWESOME and worked brilliantly well together, I loved their energy and chemistry and above all the sense of camaraderie that seemed to permeate everyone’s performances they seemed to be willing each other on throughout each note they sang, every gesture they made, and this for me made every single moment more believable. Special kudos to Wynne Evans who is now, in my eyes SO much more than simply ‘the Go Compare Man’. Loved his voice and his take on Piangi really made me smile. Now, a word or two on the leading lady and her leading men!
Sierra Boggess was in my opinion a complete and utter MARVEL as Christine. She not only has a wonderful voice (I was constantly thinking ‘MY GOD I wish I could sing like her’) but is stunningly beautiful. I loved her take on Christine because it was the embodiment of innocence but this trait was never overstated or too heavy, I loved how she seemed to grow in confidence as the show went on, and it was sheer delight to watch her blossom and re-define the role as her own after her success in ‘Love Never Dies’, which after seeing her perform as she did here, I TOTALLY regret not seeing!
Ramin Karimloo was the Phantom and I swear there aren’t enough superlatives I can use to describe how much I adore this man. He was ‘my’ Phantom when I saw the show for my 18th birthday back in 2008. I thought he was fabulous back then, but he has improved leaps and bounds on what I remember and totally re-cemented why I loved him in the role so much to begin with! His performance was hypnotic, he drew me in from the moment he first spoke and didn’t let go until his very last note. He seemed to really be in touch with all the emotions that the Phantom goes through and could seamlessly go from one to the other, bringing these out with such intensity that I was moved to tears on two occasions and was left holding my breath in awe during every other. His voice is so rich and powerful that at one especially memorable moment, I actually did a double take because it felt like he was there behind me!
Hadley Fraser played Raoul and I was so proud of him. I’ve been lucky enough to see him perform as Javert in Les Misérables for my 21st birthday and meet him afterward, he is an utter gent and a joy to speak with. Having already seen him as Javert, I knew he would be fantastic and sure enough, he was 😀 Like Ramin, I was blown away by the strength of his voice and presence, and loved how his take on Raoul treaded the fine line between endearingly sweet and deliciously arrogant, looking and sounding fantastic doing both 😉 He left me with the dilemma: do I prefer him in his blue coat truncheon in hand a la Javert, or dressed in black & gold dancing the masquerade? A dilemma I’m only too happy to live with 😉
A few of my favourite moments:
- Christine’s removing the Phantom’s mask for the first time – such a tense and crucial moment, beautifully acted by Ramin & Sierra. ‘Stranger than you dreamt it’ gave me shivers and I got choked up by how upset he was when she recoiled in horror. He only had to say ‘no’ as softly as he does for my heart to melt.
- ‘All I Ask of You’ – One of my favourite love songs. Hadley sings. Need I say more? 😉 Loved the chemistry between Hadley and Sierra, I really believed every word they sang. Ever so slightly jealous of their kiss 😉 but it will forever remain one of my favourites. Ramin’s part in the reprise was FAULTLESS and moved me to tears! Raoul spends the beginning of the scene a little angry, but by the end he softens and it was lovely to see him smile and laugh as he embraces Christine.
- ‘Music of the Night’ – See the above but take out ‘love’, and substitute Hadley for Ramin. I forgot how beautifully he could sing this, and had shivers rippling up and down my spine throughout, and I didn’t care in the slightest 😉
- ‘Masquerade/Why So Silent’- Visually stunning and superbly sung by all involved 😀
- Ramin’s evil laugh during ‘Poor Fool…’ – So believable and delightfully epic!!
- ‘Christine, Christine, You Don’t Have To, They Can’t Make You’ – This was one of my favourite lines from Hadley. The delivery was perfect and I loved the way he emphasised the last two words. In that instance, Raoul was fierce and protective which I loved 🙂
- The final scene in the lair – Sheer Perfection, made me cry like a baby. Incredibly acted by Ramin, Hadley & Sierra… so much emotional intensity. I loved how they swapped one of Christine’s verses from All I Ask Of You and gave it to Raoul, it played with the depth in their relationship a bit and was still shamelessly romantic.
- 5 Phantoms with Sarah Brightman – I will freely admit, make of this what you will, that I have never been a huge Sarah Brightman fan. Don’t get me wrong she has a fantastic voice but I dunno… Anyway, seeing her sing with 5 superbly talented gentlemen (Ramin, Colm Wilkinson, John Owen Jones, Peter Joback & Anthony Warlow) was a treat, and also seeing the original Phantom himself Michael Crawford was a fitting end to this wonderful occasion.
I had to stifle my repeated cries of ‘Go On Lads!!’ for Ramin, Hadley, JOJ and Colm throughout these final two moments for fear of attracting funny looks! I wished I could’ve been at the RAH just to be able to vent some of these fantastic emotions I was feeling, to show my appreciation for this stellar cast… I still cheered and clapped quietly to myself though! 😉
By the end, all I could do was quote the Phantom himself: ‘Brava, Brava, Bravissima’. Over and Over again 😀