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An Own Ghoul

November 8th 2000
Written for The Birmingham Post by Alison Jones

Ken Hill's Phantom of the Opera Coventry Belgrade. (Review)

The panto has come early to the Belgrade. Big sets, bad gags and songs that are as easy on the ear as they are instantly forgettable. Even the title - Ken Hill's Phantom of the Opera - sounds like a joke. A kind of French farce with high notes and low humour, it plays like Gilbert and Sullivan meets Carry On. The tone is set early when a man dressed in horns and a forked tale swings across the stage and the opera manager asks 'who the devil are you?'. You could almost hear the comedy drum roll. This is a Phantom for theatre companies who want a musical show less grandiose than Lloyd Webber's. Briefly, a ghost is stalking the opera house of Paris. Determined to make a star of chorus girl Christine (Sarah Ryan, who battled valiantly to be heard above the orchestra), the masked monster is killing anyone who gets in his way.

He disposes of the pain-in-the-neck diva (Julie Fox) by dropping a chandelier on her head, like the Wicked Witch being crushed beneath Dorothy's house in the Wizard of Oz. Adele Anderson of Fascinating Aida takes the evil stepmother role as the theatre housekeeper with the warmth of Mrs Danvers and the hairdo of Princess Leia. It is a production that perches precariously on many stools - comedy, music, melodrama - which is probably its biggest weakness as it is not convincing enough in any of them. It also has the mark of 'perfect for amdram' all over it. The fact there is a codpiece in it which could easily get the nod for best supporting part speaks volumes.

Until Saturday. Running time: two and a half hours.