Available for only 24 hours, this concert production marking 25 years of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical aimed to raise funds for various charities connected with Covid-19. To celebrate such a hit show, with its potent beauty-and-the-beast love triangle, producer Cameron Macintosh didn’t scrimp. The result is tremendous.
Gorgeous costumes, fantastic video projections and, with the Royal Albert Hall standing in for the Palais Garnier that the Phantom made his home, the atmosphere is impressive throughout. The auditorium is skilfully used in the film and – wait for it – the chandelier has fireworks!
The extravagance continues with a plumped-up ensemble and full corps de ballet, including a guest appearance by Sergei Polunin. Appropriately, there’s a star-studded cast, led by Ramin Karimloo in the title role. Karimloo makes a formidable Phantom, his singing muscular and emotions raw. His is a frightened figure, scared of his love for Christine, with hatred of his rival fuelling his insanity.
The object of his obsession, played by Sierra Boggess, sounds beautiful and is just as well acted. Boggess is great at bringing out the horror in the story and even shows that Christine herself is a good actress. Also, very few people can make a cape work so well for them. Completing the trio of leads, Raoul Vicomte de Chagny, is a poorer role, but Hadley Fraser does well to inject an edge to the character with a ruthless streak that aids the show’s action.
Both the staging and the cast, directed impeccably by Laurence Connor, are wonderful. But the biggest attraction remains Lloyd Webber’s music. Benefitting from a bigger orchestra than usual, it sounds better than ever; the overture to Act Two is gorgeous and the opera music within the show impressive.
How to end such a fantastic event? I’m pleased I kept watching, after the lengthy applause, for the encore – an appearance by the original ‘angel of music’ Sarah Brightman, backed by four former Phantoms! A very special end to a magnificent event that easily deserves donations.
Available on The Shows Must Go On! YouTube channel until 18 April 2020