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First Nights: Phun And Games

March 21st 2001
Written for the Birmingham Evening Mail by John Slim




Phantom of the Opera
Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton


IF THERE were a bit of audience bewilderment, it would be no surprise. Ken Hill's Phantom of the Opera is not to be confused with Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, which it preceded. All the Gothic trappings are here but there, any similarity ends. This is a fun Phantom - a Phantomime, in fact. There's a song performed almost acrobatically. The 19th-century Paris Opera House hears lines like, 'His mother would have turned in her grave if she hadn't been lost at sea. There's a very funny cod piece.' Some excellent voices offer the words that Ken Hill put to 19th-century music - but it is the fun that will be remembered most of all, coming from all kinds of sources, from a dotty ballerina (Francesca Parker) to a chalk-faced crone (Adele Anderson). This is an evening of delightfully lunatic moments and mirthful murders, packaged with pyrotechnics and lit with distinction. Through it all, Thor Kristinsson, as the Phantom, and Sarah Ryan (Christine) play the necessary straight bats. Lloyd Webber it ain't - but it's a wow and it runs until Saturday.