The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most iconic musicals ever produced, and after a record-breaking season in Sydney, theatre and musical lovers will be pouring through the doors of the majestic State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne to catch this classic.
On September 23, 1909, the first instalment of French writer Gaston Leroux’s novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra was published in the Parisian newspaper called Le Gaulois, and then instalments continued to enthral readers throughout January 1910, with the novel being published in March 1910.
What many might not know is that actor, writer and director Kenneth Hill (1937-1995) was the first playwright to transform The Phantom of the Opera into a musical, and it was put on for audiences in 1984 at Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop in London – a place for theatre lovers that always pushed boundaries and spearheaded collaborative, experimental productions.
World-renowned English composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (who also created Cats and Jesus Christ, Superstar) watched the performance and was inspired to create his own version.
Today, his take on the classsic – a musical released in 1986 – is the one most people think of when the Phantom of the Opera is mentioned. Amazingly, it played continuously at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London until its closure due to the pandemic, and then reopened in July this year.
For those living under a rock, and who are thus unfamiliar with the storyline, The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a disfigured musical genius who haunts the Paris Opera House. Captivated by the talent and beauty of a young soprano named Christine, the Phantom lures her in as his protégé and his love becomes an obsession that changes the paths of all involved.
Fast forward to 2022, and following its record-breaking season at the Sydney Opera House, Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera premiers today at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne. Directed by Seth Sklar-Heyn, it is presented by Opera Australia in association with The Really Useful Group.
This awesome new show kicked off with a record-breaking sell-out tour of the UK followed by a seven-year tour of the United States which grossed a staggering US$400 million. Not only did it get rave reviews from audiences, critics across the world have also sung its praises.
Australia is now only the third lucky country to play host to this new adaptation, with hit songs The Music of the Night, All I Ask of You and Masquerade. Maria Björnson’s iconic original costumes grace the stage, and there are many special effects including a dazzling recreation of the show’s chandelier.
There are 37 cast members and a 27-piece orchestra, making it one of the largest musical productions ever to be seen in Australia.
The talented Australian cast is led by Josh Piterman in the coveted lead role of the Phantom, with the equally talented Amy Manford as the ingénue Christine Daaé – the phantom’s obsession. Blake Bowden plays Raoul Vicomte de Chagny.
The show in Sydney was in the Joan Sutherland Theatre – the perfect place for production designer Paul Brown’s mesmerising set that seamlessly changes from scene to scene like flitting romantic dreams and dark murky nightmares. It’s so easy to get utterly swept up in the dramatic production that at times it’s surprising to remember that the orchestra is below you, creating such powerful music that you’re transported into the swirling, genius mind of the Phantom as he is overcome with love, desire and an ultimate feeling of hopelessness.
Without ruining any of the grandeur and beauty of the show (the misty boat scenes are sensational), there were many tissues being used as guests left the Sydney Opera House, moved by both the storyline and the incredible performances by the actors and the orchestra. Add to that the extensive $71 million dollar renovation to the Joan Sutherland Theatre in 2017, and it was a performance not to be forgotten.
No surprises if lovers of this iconic tale have already bought tickets to see it again in Melbourne. It’s well worth seeing more than once.
For more information, please visit: www.thephantomoftheopera.com.au.
To check out even more amazing productions in Melbourne, check out the top theatres in Melbourne to catch a live show.