Women behind the Phantom

The hype is building in anticipation of West End singing sensation Ramin Karimloo’s two-night concert at the JW Marriott KL on June 21 and 22.

Billed as “An Evening With The Phantom”, the dinner gala event is an exclusive black tie affair that promises “music, drama, sumptuous dining and unparalleled opulence.”

The main draw of the show is, of course, Ramin Karimloo. The Iranian-born Canadian singer and actor, is most popularly known for his turn as the sinister masked antagonist in the London production of The Phantom Of The Opera. Joining him on stage will be Annalisa Kerrigan, an internationally renowned Australian opera songstress with Irish-Malaysian lineage.

In the director’s seat is Joanna Bessey while the musical director is Malaysian composer, arranger and concert keyboardist is Lee Sze Wan.

Directing the classics

Since her breakout award-winning role in the late 1990s sitcom Kopitiam, Bessey has been actively involved in theatre, film, and television.

Her stage directing credits include Love Journey, So You Think You Can Mamak? and Wacky Bar. In 2011, she directed the local production of the popular Broadway musical Dreamgirls at Istana Budaya and hooked a Cameronian Arts Awards Best Director nomination for it. The effervescent Bessey also found time to start a family.

Talking enthusiastically about the show’s direction, Bessey shared her love for the Phantom. “The Phantom Of The Opera has been a successful musical for 25 years and there’s a reason it is a classic and so immensely popular. I am sure most people would know of or recognise the songs. The elements about this musical which have inspired me, and which I believe would excite our audience, is the high drama and thrilling experience of its spectacle,” she said.

However, Bessey also clarified that it’s not going to be The Phantom Of The Opera but an homage to it and other musicals.

“As opposed to a full staging of a musical, this format is more a staged concert with a Phantom theme but Ramin will be singing favourites from many other musicals as well,” said Bessey.

Bessey also shared some tantalising details about the show’s look. “In terms of design and sets, we are inspired by the Phantom musical itself and its setting, the Paris Opera house and the Victorian/Art Nouveau era of the 1890s. This artistic direction and time period will imbue itself in the whole evening, from costumes to ambience in the ballroom.” The multi-talented actor director also took time to praise the production team at Enfiniti.

“I feel Enfiniti and our producer Amee Hallim-Illiyaare putting together a very tight team of technical and creative persons together on this project, who are very much the best in the musical theatre industry,” added Bessey.

The music rush

What is a concert without music? The task of realising the musical component of An Evening With The Phantom falls on musical director Lee Sze Wan. Although the Malaysian composer, arranger and concert keyboardist is not a household name just yet, Lee is the perfect choice to lead the band to recreate the classically majestic score of the Phantom.

A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Lee is musically accomplished and has had extensive experience in the world of musical theatre, having professionally worked in New York in a few Broadway productions including Les Miserables, Porgy & Bess, and Miss Saigon and locally on musicals such as P. Ramlee — The Musical, Puteri Gunung Ledang – The Musical.

Since returning to Malaysia, Lee has worked with some of the industry’s biggest names such as Siti Nurhaliza, Zainal Abidin, Anuar Zain, and Jacyln Victor. She has also performed for popular regional artistes such as Fish Leong, Fong Fei Fei, Sandra Yip, Adam Cheng, and Sandy Lam. Her long list of achievements also includes TV shows such as Mania, Akademi Fantasia and One In A Million.

Talking about her involvement in the show, the Berklee College of Music graduate is looking forward to working with Karimloo.

“The Phantom show has always been one of the famous musicals throughout the years and I am indeed excited working with talented singer Ramin Karimloo,” said Lee.

She first worked with the singer last year when she was musical director for the West End Stars In Concert show at Istana Budaya, which featured Karimloo singing alongside Stephen Rahman-Hughes and Simon Bailey.

Asked how she manages to keep things fresh in her busy schedule, Lee said, “I’ve tried a variety of methods, feeding my brain with raw material, performing and learning from working with artistes. That freedom of working allows me to take chances and not to be too precious about my ideas and, most importantly, joyfully embracing music with my humble skillsets. Of course, adaptation is equally important.”

While Lee kept mum about the exact song list for An Evening With The Phantom, she did confirm that there will be pleasant surprises for fans of Phantom and musicals, adding that she herself is an ardent fan of the Phantom.

For bookings, call 03-7725 1177 (public) and 03-6142 9877 (corporate). Browse: www.aneveningwiththephantom.com or www.tickethotline.com.my

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