REVIEW: “Phantom of the Opera” is pure stage magic

Meghan Picerno (Christine) and Jonathan Roxmouth (Phantom); photo by Jaypee Maristaza

This Andrew Lloyd Webber musical returns to Manila in such a pristine state, it’s almost unbelievable that The Theater at Solaire wasn’t built specifically to mount Phantom of the Opera. The set design drips with neo-gothic opulence, the score throbs with grandeur from the first note, there are beguiling ball gowns, pyrotechnics; not to mention a giant chandelier that crashes downstage center–it feels big and bombastic and spectacular, you half-expect the chairs to vibrate as the music swells.

The impressive staging (directed by Harold Prince) and hits like “Music of the Night” and “All I Ask of You” have carried this musical for thirty years and all over the world; the sheer majesty of its staging eclipsing the plot of obsessive love and theater politics. Case in point: it’s still running to packed audiences on Broadway and the West End even with a nightmarish lead character obsessed with an unsuspecting young woman.

Webber and Prince’s staging doesn’t really romanticize the obsession, but I’d be remiss not to say that Roxmouth’s Phantom gives the character a magnetic allure. For the show’s eponym, he is surprisingly on stage for very little, though the Phantom’s presence is as constant and indelible as the chandelier hanging overhead.

L-R: Thabiso Masemene (Ubaldo Piangi), James Borthwick (Monsieur Firmin), Beverley Chiat (Carlotta Giudicelli), Matt Leisy (Raoul), Curt Olds (Monsieur Andre), Melina Kalomas (Madame Giry), Kiruna-Lind Devar (Meg Giry); photo by Jaypee Maristaza

Based on French novelist Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, The Phantom of the Opera is about a madman with a mask (Roxmouth) who has largely steered away from human contact. Enchanted by the ingenue Christine (an enamoring Meghan Picerno), he lures her to him. For “Music of the Night”, in particular, Roxmouth punctuates each ornate lyric with a performance that is equally extravagant. This is our introduction to the Phantom, he knows, and he makes it unforgettable.

The Phantom’s obsession with Christine manifests like a haunting: the company employing Christine is experiencing freak accidents, or threats thereof, if they don’t do the Phantom’s bidding. There is Raoul (Matt Leisy), too–the sensible love interest, sure, but less captivating a character to Christine and the Phantom. The obsession grows, culminating in an abduction where Christine needed to be saved. There’s a tragic truth to the Phantom, but his sins remain inexcusable.

Matt Leisy (Raoul) and Meghan Picerno (Christine); photo by Jaypee Maristaza

The big, full orchestrations and atmospheric staging shroud any plot shortcomings. When there are candelabras glistening as a boat rows into view, or the full ensemble dressed in ostentatious garb in the resplendent “Masquerade”, or the Phantom pelts Raoul with tiny fireballs from his staff, there’s little point to nitpick.

This touring production is impeccably put together, from the orchestra playing Webber’s music to the ensemble giving exquisite performances, and every set piece on stage. A lot of it is over the top, but Phantom of the Opera seems to operate on a theatrical plane where bigger is better, more is merrier–and it works. It’s a feast for the eyes and the ears. And so, to borrow words from the Phantom himself: savor each sensation.

Tickets: Php 1,900.00 - Php 7,250.00
Show Dates: Feb 20 ‘19, Feb 21 ‘19, Feb 22 ‘19, Feb 23 ‘19, Feb 24 ‘19, Feb 26 ‘19, Feb 27 ‘19, Feb 28 ‘19, Mar 1 ‘19, Mar 2 ‘19, Mar 3 ‘19, Mar 5 ‘19, Mar 6 ‘19, Mar 7 ‘19, Mar 8 ‘19, Mar 9 ‘19, Mar 10 ‘19, Mar 12 ‘19, Mar 13 ‘19, Mar 14 ‘19, Mar 15 ‘19, Mar 16 ‘19, Mar 17 ‘19, Mar 19 ‘19, Mar 20 ‘19, Mar 21 ‘19, Mar 22 ‘19, Mar 23 ‘19, Mar 24 ‘19, Mar 26 ‘19, Mar 27 ‘19, Mar 28 ‘19, Mar 29 ‘19, Mar 30 ‘19, Mar 31 ‘19, Apr 2 ‘19, Apr 3 ‘19, Apr 4 ‘19, Apr 5 ‘19, Apr 6 ‘19
Venue: The Theatre, Solaire Resort & Casino, Aseana Avenue Entertainment City, Parañaque
Running Time: approx. 2 hours and 30 mins (w/ 20 min intermission)
Credits: Harold Prince (director), Gillian Lynne (musical staging and choreography), Maria Bjornson (production design), Andrew Bridge (production design), Mick Potter (sound design), Martin Levan (original sound design), David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber (orchestrations), Arthur Masella (associate direction), Kristen Blodgette (music supervisor), Denny Berry (associate choreographer), Edward Pierce (design adaptation and supervision), Michael Odam (associate lighting designer), Nic Gray (associate sound designer), Stephen Davan (associate scenic designer), Sam Fleming (associate costume designer), Stefan Musch (hair supervisor), Bob McCarron (prosthetic, mask, and make-up supervisor), Tara Rubin Casting (US casting director)
Cast: Jonathan Roxmouth, Meghan Picerno, Matt Leisy, James Borthwick, Curt Olds, Beverley Chiat, Melina Kalomas, Thabiso Masemene, Kiruna-Lind Devar, Sebastian Zokoza, Mike Huff, Joseph DePietro, Eric Anthony Lopez, Luke Grooms, Ian Jon Bourg, Michael Gillis, Rouel Beukes, Jennifer West, Robin Botha, Clara Verdier, Janelle Visagie, Jana Ellsworth, Deborah Caddy, Saverio Pescucci, Jesse Klick, Ayaka Kamei, Rachel Thalman, Claire Van Bever, Skye Weiss, Järvi Raudsepp, Hillary Reiter, JeeHyun Noh, Lungelwa Mdekazi, Megan Ort, Oliver Druce, Alexander Mendoza
Company: Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and Concertus Manila

Nikki Francisco :Editor-in-Chief for TheaterFansManila.com. Bylines at Cosmo.ph, Spot.ph, NoliSoli.ph, waytogo by Smile Magazine, and Scout.ph. Writer by trade and temperament. A self-professed art appreciator, she'll watch anything once. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.