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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Phantom of the Opera (Arts Centre Melbourne) - 130 minutes, plus a 20-minute interval

Updated: Nov 6, 2022

Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterful work The Phantom of the Opera sizzles.

Everything about the production works a treat.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music, a cavalcade of riches, still stirs the soul 36 years after the musical debuted in London.

In this case, plaudits to Orchestra Victoria for bringing it to life, with Anthony Barnhill conducting.

Photos by Daniel Boud

After a prologue involving a Paris Opera House auction set in 1919, the story turns to events at the grand opera in 1881.

As the cast is preparing for a new production of Hannibal, the opera house manager announces his retirement.

For three years “accidents” have been happening regularly at the theatre and now there is another near miss, which is blamed on “the opera ghost”.

The resident soprano Carlotta Giudicelli storms out.

Rather than cancel a sold-out performance, a young chorus girl with a well-trained golden voice, Christine Daae, steps in.

The opera’s new patron Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny recognises Christine from their childhood and begins to woo her.

It turns out that Christine’s singing has been inspired by a gifted composer and grossly disfigured man who she has never seen.

It is his (The Phantom of the Opera’s) jealousy that informs the rest of the narrative as he casts a large shadow over all future productions at the opera house.

The phenomenal talent on display at the State Theatre brings out the very best in Phantom.

Australian-American soprano Amy Manford, who stars as Christine Daae, has the most angelic of voices.

She is nothing short of breathtaking, having previously assumed the role in London’s West End and in Athens, Greece.

The timbre in Josh Piterman’s pipes and the angst he displays in the title role, which he also played to critical acclaim in the West End, are captivating.

Blake Bowden, too, impresses as Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny.

The confrontational scene where he, Manford and Piterman cross paths and “sing their lungs out” is one of the musical’s many highlights.

Australian-Italian Soprano Giuseppina Grech, who performs regularly with Opera Australia, fittingly shines as the opera star Carlotta Giudicelli until the Phantom usurps her position.

Another with considerable West End experience in a role he has made his own is tenor Paul Tabone. He plays up to perfection the indignant opera leading man Ubaldo Piangi, Giudicelli's lover.

Jayde Westaby is a force to be reckoned with as the no nonsense Madame Giry, while Mietta White adds spark as her daughter Meg.

The set design by Paul Brown is a visual feast – a contrast of light and darkness between the gilt-edged opera house and the Phantom’s lair.

The appearance of steps as the Phantom leads Christine to his quarters via gondola and fog is a stroke of genius.

Pyrotechnics also play a significant part in proceedings as do special effects wizardry.

So it is that The Phantom of the Opera is fiery, both figuratively and literally.

Choreographer Scott Ambler certainly had his hands full with scenes involving the full cast and has done a wonderful job.

The costuming is opulent and plentiful, a tableau of creativity by Maria Bjornson.

And this Phantom wouldn’t be as great as it is without the efforts of lighting designer Paule Constable and sound designer Mick Potter.

Directed by Laurence Connor, this mesmerising production is a theatrical triumph of the highest order.

The Phantom of the Opera is playing at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, until 5th February, 2023.


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