Dark was the night

  • Arts
  • Saturday, 27 Jul 2013

With its 130-strong cast, crew and orchestra members, the Singapore installment features detailed scenery, breathtaking special effects, and more than 230 intricate costumes conjured by the late Maria Björnson. Raoul is the one in the centre, dressed in black, while Christine is on his right (in whitish skirt)

The enduring classic of the macabre, The Phantom Of The Opera, returns to haunt Singapore.

THE Singapore return of the world’s most successful and longest-running show on Broadway, The Phantom Of The Opera (POTO), opened with a star-studded affair at the MasterCard Theatres of the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) last Thursday.

As Andrew Lloyd Webber’s critically acclaimed masterpiece enters its 27th year on the West End (and its 26th year on Broadway), Singapore is likely to see another round of fully-sold performances, like it did when the musical arrived there in 2007.

Based upon the novel Le Fantome De L’Opera by Gaston Leroux, POTO tells the story of a disfigured musical genius – known only as “The Phantom” – who haunts the nooks and crannies of the Paris Opera House. The Phantom is taken by the talent and beauty of a young soprano Christine Daae, whom he successfully lures to be his protégé.

Problem is, The Phantom takes more than just a professional interest in Christine, and things go rapidly downhill when he finds out that she is actually in love with her childhood friend Raoul, who is also patron of the opera house. And thus, the stage is set for a collision between love, loyalty, and the need to do the right thing.

The Phantom is played by American Brad Little, 49, who would have given close to 2,300 performances in the that role, while leading lady Christine is played by 26-year-old Australian Claire Lyon, one of the few actresses to have been involved in both POTO and its sequel, Love Never Dies.

With its 130-strong cast, crew and orchestra members, the Singapore instalment features detailed scenery, breathtaking special effects, and more than 230 intricate costumes conjured by the late Maria Björnson, who is also credited with the subterranean gondola, the sweeping staircase, and of course, the much-talked about chandelier.

This version of POTO is produced by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, David Atkins Enterprises, and Base Entertainment in association with The Really Useful Group. According to assistant director Rainer Fried, this cast was originally put together in Cape Town, South Africa, but over the years, some members were replaced gradually, and the current stellar cast is as international as it could get: performers come from Sweden, the United States, South Africa, Australia, Britain and New Zealand, just to name some.

To everyone¿s delight, the Phantom (Brad Little) and Christine (Claire Lyon) pairing managed to evoke awe, surprise, happiness and sadness with ease and finesse, all without missing a note or beat.
To everyone’s delight, the pairing of Phantom (Brad Little) and Christine (Claire Lyon) managed to evoke awe, surprise, happiness and sadness with ease and finesse, all without missing a note or beat.

“And every time someone new comes on board, he or she will bring something new, and this help keep things interesting,” he added.

In its most contemporary version, the current show is indeed one of the largest shows ever hosted at MBS, with 22 container-loads of props, costumes, and scenery equipment being transported to its MasterCard Theaters.

Translated into audience enjoyment, it just means that those who had previously seen POTO will not miss the same exquisite design that they are familiar with.

The props are up to mark, with the impressive chandelier still doing what it can do: cause alarm among some members of the audience unfamiliar with what an angry Phantom will do when he is angry.

In an interview during the media call, Little said that he could probably be doing the same for at least another five years. “As long as the body can hold out, why not? I love the role, and if the body and voice can hold out,” said Little, son of a theatre professor.

He added that his body might occasionally feel the strain, but the challenge posed his fellow actors help keep lethargy in check. “I might feel tired at times, but that is just the body. Claire (Lyon) and I have a lot of fun on stage, just playing with each other. We have to keep each other on our toes, to keep it fresh, and rely on each other, but for most part, when I hear the music, I am all charged again.”

Lyon, who gets to do ballet, act, and sing throughout the show, said that the most challenging aspect is to keep up the stamina. This classically trained soprano graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts with a Bachelor of Music Performance in 2007, had performed as Christine in Thailand, Korea and the Philippines.

“We are going to bring a world class performance that they always know. Nothing is watered down. This is the true blue stuff, and that is what the audience is going to get,” declared Little.

Lyon demonstrates the same amount of enthusiasm and confidence when she said: “Be prepared to be wowed.”

Based on the gala night performance, all these proved to be no mere idle talk as the cast really delivered. Little is commanding in his role as The Phantom, speaking with authority, and succeeding in evoking awe and fear from all whenever he needed to.

As The Phantom, he exhibited good chemistry with Lyon, who also manages to shine in her role that sees her transform from a young and innocent dancer with a penchant for singing, into a highly-favoured soprano desired by Raoul, The Phantom, and the audience.

To everyone’s delight, the pair managed to evoke awe, surprise, happiness and sadness with ease and finesse, all without missing a note or beat (note: must not miss the scene where The Phantom trembled and wept).

My only gripe was with Raoul, played by South Africa’s Anthony Downing, who appeared rather muted at certain segments. I had expected a more passionate Raoul as he was pleading with Christine to follow him, and not go to The Phantom, but this does not detract too much from my overall appreciation of the show.

A delightful discovery would be Andrea Creighton, a fine soprano who played the role of the Paris Opera House’s prima donna Carlotta Giudicelli to perfection.

From New Zealand, Creighton provided hilarity on multiple occasions with her well-rehearsed Italian accent, that when coupled with her on stage diva histrionics, provides just the right measure of comic relief that adds tremendously to the enjoyment of the show.

While Creighton is entertaining as she spouts accusations and other witticisms via Carlotta, she is most impressive when she needs to pull out those high notes to put her point across. This is definitely a performer to watch out for.

While writing this review, I listened to the recording of the much-talked about “Original Cast” (the trio of Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, and Steve Barton), and I really felt that I did not miss much by not having the opportunity to watch them live (no disrespect intended, of course, to the talent of the trio).

With the resources the producers had invested in the Singapore production, I came away feeling that it would not be any different if I had watched this same show at West End.

This contemporary adaptation delivers all the goods – funny moments, good singing and acting, capable of arousing sympathy, and most importantly, serve romance in healthy doses. The perfect icing on the cake is the plush and comfortable MasterCard Theater of MBS, which is also highly accessible and surrounded by myriad attractions.

  • The Phantom Of The Opera season in Singapore will close on Sept 1, with shows running daily at prices starting from S$55 (RM138) to S$230 (RM579), excluding booking fee. More information can be found at (baseentertainmentasia.com) or (marinabay sands.com) or by calling +65 6688 8826.

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