“Oh, it’s so dated. It really hasn’t stood the test of time”, I heard one person say in that “theatre kinda way” at the after-show drinks last night. As I was having such a good time myself, I didn’t want to argue to toss except to say “I actually really quite liked it”. And that’s where the conversation ended.
I’ve never actually been to see a production of “Phantom Of The Opera” before, and so when the invitation came to opening night at Star City Casino, I snapped it up instantly. I was curious more than anything. On the one hand, I knew “Phantom” had its fans, millions of whom had paid big bucks to see it staged previously. On the other, I knew about the famed (or infamous) chandelier scene, I knew some of the songs though I wasn’t a huge fan of the soundtrack, and I’d read various reviews which have previously described it as an exercise in style over substance.
And while there’s probably more than a grain of truth in that, I also really bloody well enjoyed it. I thought it was visually spectacular (especially many of the transformation scenes, especially the boat scene), the singing was terrific (Anthony Warlow and Ana Maria were both tremendous), and it had lots of great sing-along tunes.
At one point the bloke sitting next to me began to conduct the strings, and at another point, his wife began to sing along. For just half a moment I didn’t know whether to ask her to be quiet or to join in myself. Actually, there was one moment where I found myself humming along out loud, and not just in my head. For all of the cynicism you often find in theatre circles about Andrew Lloyd Webber, I’m still quite a fan.
The plotline of course is pure nonsense. But as my friend Colin observed later in the night, “You’ve got to recognise it’s melodrama”. And once you do, and once you get caught up in the moment, you find yourself having a great night.
I thought the first half was better than the second, with more recognisable tunes, and a great sense of pace. And in all honesty, the famous chandelier scene – where the chandelier plummets to the ground – was a bit of a letdown. Possibly a victim of public liability insurance, the chandelier kinda wafted down slowly, rather than dramatically as you might have expected or hoped. Minutes later, I was outside in the theatre looking down on the audience on levels below and imagined for just a moment what might have happened if a chandelier had fallen down there, crashing heavily on those below. :)
But those minor criticisms aside I had a tremendous night. And when Anthony Warlow came out on stage for applause, he quite genuinely and deservedly received a standing ovation.
Famously, there’s a television newsreader who I often see at opening nights who usually has to leave halfway through to go to read the news. As he was sitting in the row in front of me, I noticed he was there until the very end, which presumably means he was having a good or time. Or maybe he wasn’t reading the news last night?
Celebrity-wise, I hear the former PM, Hawkie was there, as was AJ from “Biggest Loser”, though I didn’t see either. I did however see the former Mr Kidman, Angus Hawley. And I also got to meet the new uber-cool television entertainment presenter, James Tobin. “Is this Row E?”, he said to me. “Yes, I replied”, pulling out our tickets, and very soon realising we were sitting in the wrong seats. He seemed very nice about it though, I thought. He was sitting by himself and through intermission was heavily texting someone. Guess who, don’t sue, as Ros Reines might say!
In other musical theatre news, I’m off to see “Chess” at the Theatre Royal on Saturday night. Odd in a way, because when you think about it, with “Chess”, “Phantom”, “Hawkie”, etc you can’t help but wonder if 2008 is actually 1988 all over again.