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MANILA, Philippines - The Phantom of the Opera is widely regarded as the most successful stage musical in history.
A quick check on Google reveals the numbers: over US$5-B in worldwide gross box office receipts since it opened in 1986 from over 130 million people who have seen it in 145 cities in 27 countries.
It all sounds so impressive, but unless you’re sitting in a darkened theater witnessing that curtain go up, it will be difficult to fully appreciate what exactly makes this production special.
The story is simple enough.
Based on the book by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera follows the events in a fictional opera house, where a mysterious masked tenant who has been wreaking havoc for the performers becomes obsessed with a young ingénue named Christine.
There is a strange sexual tension between them in the beginning, but the appearance of the nobleman Raoul, who also harbors feelings for Christine, all but dashes the Phantom’s hopes of romancing the beautiful actress.
Desperate to win Christine’s heart, the Phantom spirits her away in the middle of a performance into his lair deep underneath the opera house, with Raoul in hot pursuit.
The climactic face-off ends in an unexpectedly tender moment between Christine and the Phantom.
The musical that sprung from the mind of acclaimed composer Andrew Lloyd Webber opened in Manila last August 25, with a gala performance held last August 30. Theater enthusiasts I spoke to only had glowing reviews, but that was to be expected. Many had seen it performed somewhere else, like New York’s Broadway or London’s West End, and they didn’t mind seeing it again at the CCP.
Herein lies “Phantom’s” strength — it is a performance that not only encourages repeat viewings but actually demands it.
During a Q&A with members of the press, lead actor Jonathan Roxmouth who plays the role of the Phantom responded to a question about keeping his performance fresh night after night.
The thing about “Phantom,” he said, is that there are multiple aspects in the production that he keeps discovering every time he takes to the stage. Perhaps this is true for audiences as well.
But even for those who are seeing the musical for the first time, like myself, it’s simply a spectacle that does not fail to amaze the eyes, impress the ears and touch the heart.
How the production transformed the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo is the musical’s first great triumph.
Ornate gold-colored carvings of scenes depicting Greek tragedies framed 3 sides of the stage. The grand chandelier — an essential and iconic symbol of the musical — lived up to expectations. The costumes were opulent but never distracting, reflecting perhaps a fancier, more grandiose interpretation of the musical’s setting and period.
It was the actors, however, that brought the vision to life.
Roxmouth displayed power and authority as the Phantom that would have been difficult to convey in less competent talent. Surprisingly, he imbued the character with depth and complexity during the softer, more sensitive parts of the narrative. The standing ovation he received at the end was well-deserved.
The other two leads, Anthony Downing as Raoul and Claire Lyon as Christine, were just as accomplished. Downing’s pretty boy good looks served him well playing the devoted beau, while Lyon’s impressive set of vocal pipes remained a thing of beauty in a sea of darkness and confusion.
All 3 worked well together and played off of each other’s strengths.
Even if you have no idea what the production is about, you’ll find yourself singing along with familiar songs like “Think Of Me,” “Music of The Night” and “All I Ask Of You.”
The ensemble cast delivered splendidly and expressed the message of the musical with eloquence and grace.
And what exactly is the message of The Phantom of The Opera?
Why, love, of course. The sentiment has been examined, expressed and expounded on in countless ways through the ages, but it is never more profound or powerful than when it is communicated with simplicity and honesty.
Despite its spectacular visuals and entertaining song and dance numbers, The Phantom Of The Opera, is really just a simple love story told in a creative, remarkable way. - Rappler.com
The Phantom of The Opera is directed by Harold Prince and is an original production by Cameron Macintosh and The Really Useful Group. It will run until October 14, 2012 at the Tanghalong Nicanor Abelardo, Cultural Center of the Philippines. For tickets, call Ticketworld at 891-9999.
Paul John Caña is the associate editor of Lifestyle Asia magazine. Follow him on Twitter @pauljohncana.
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