Phantom of the Opera - review
30th January 2001
Written for BBC.co.uk by Nigel Bell
A world away from Andrew Lloyd Webber's version but none the worse for that. Ken Hill's Phantom has been around for twenty five years but now has the potential to become a cult classic in the Rocky Horror vein. Nigel Bell survived a night in the phantom's lair. The Theatre Royal has done it's best to say this is Ken Hill's Phantom of the Opera and it's to be hoped few patrons make the mistake of thinking they'll be hearing Music of the Night and other Lloyd Webber classics. This version of Gaston Leroux's famous story of the Phantom who haunted the Paris Opera House plays it very much for laughs. In that respect the production is an absolute winner. The characters are so over the top and each has traits which makes sure they stay in the audiences imagination long after the final curtain.
Special mention must go to Fascinating Aida star Adele Anderson who plays Madam Giry in such a menacing style she manages to scare everyone. Her make-up makes her look like Morticia from the Adams Family. Jay Marcus must have spent months studying Hugh Laurie, such is his depiction of Raoul, the son of the theatre's new manager who's in love with Christine (Sarah Ryan). Sadly for him, Christine is also the love interest of the Phantom, not someone you'd wish to cross. 60's pop star Mark Wynter does a fine job as theatre manager Richard but in fairness each member of the cast has something to offer, especially the ballerina who spends the whole performance on her points and flexing her legs to the extent it begs you to ask the question "how did she do that?"
The songs are predominantly a parody of Gilbert and Sullivan with amusing lyrics. Despite being twenty five years old the production has been revamped for 2001. Keep listening for references to the Vicar of Dibley. It's so much fun and the characters are so well defined it could easily become a cult classic like Return to the Forbidden Planet or Rocky Horror. Indeed, the Phantom himself (Thor Kristinsson) is more Meatloaf than Michael Crawford. There's a bizarre second half involving a Persian Prince and an attempt to cook our heroes as they bid to free the captive Christine. It's almost pantomime and no worse for that. It's a great night out and all the better for seeing a show based in the Paris Opera House in a theatre. Just don't expect anything too serious.