After hearing the news that one of the most popular musicals in the world, The Phantom of the Opera, was returning to Singapore for the third time, I seized the chance to watch it at half price using the ticket subsidy scheme kindly provided by the National Arts Council’s Polytechnic Arts Initiative.
Who hasn’t heard of The Phantom of the Opera? Probably the most successful musical of all time, it has been seen by over 130 million people worldwide. The acclaimed stage adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber is the longest-running show on Broadway and has won over 50 major theatre awards. Now, almost 27 years since its inception, nearly everyone can identify the gripping tune of the Phantom of the Opera Overture and recognise the iconic white half-mask of the Phantom. Needless to say, I was thrilled to be able to watch it live at the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands in August.
During the opening scene itself it was apparent that there were insufficient acoustics in the hall. It was sometimes a strain to hear what the actors were saying during the quieter scenes and long dialogues, and my seat being high up in the stands probably didn’t help. However, the live orchestra was a joy to listen to, conveying every single moment of passion, drama, conflict and pain in the unfolding story of a masked genius’ unrequited love.
Lyon’s engaging voice was showcased perfectly in “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” and was nothing short of goosebump-inducing. I was also awed by Little’s commanding voice as he belted out “Music of the Night.” Little and Lyon’s haunting performance in the duet, “All I Ask of You”, left a sense of empty depression as the entire audience felt the lovelorn emotion of the Phantom.
Brad Little, like what he has done more than 2,000 times, played the mysterious, disfigured Phantom. He lived up to expectations as he perfectly portrayed the Phantom’s love and obsession for Christine Daae, a beautiful soprano played by Claire Lyon. Lyon’s engaging voice was showcased perfectly in “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” and was nothing short of goosebump-inducing. I was also awed by Little’s commanding voice as he belted out “Music of the Night.” Little and Lyon’s haunting performance in the duet, “All I Ask of You”, left a sense of empty depression as the entire audience felt the lovelorn emotion of the Phantom.
Unfortunately, there was little to say about the acting apart from Little’s performance. Christine and Raoul, played by Anthony Downing, were supposed to be madly in love, but their chemistry was weakly translated to the audience. The supporting cast members who played eccentric characters such as Madame Giry and Monsieur Andre brought a little humour but were forgettable at most.
There were unparalleled special effects around stunning stage sets. The most enchanting were the misty candle-lit murkiness of the Phantom’s underworld, the famous chandelier ascending above the audience, and the memorable play-within-a-play setting of the gilded opera house.
Adding to the visual appeal of the musical were the grandiose costumes. The classic black and white tuxedo suit and white half-mask worn by the Phantom contrasted with the elaborately detailed outfits of the remaining cast members. This was most apparent during the “Masquerade” ball scene where over 30 cast members paraded stunning headdresses and accessories – I wanted to stop time to capture the moment and take in every intricate detail of each costume.
Being the first musical that I watched live, it has set the bar high for any musical theatre production I will attend in future. Looking back, if I had known how amazing musical was, I would have gladly paid four times the amount I paid that night for better seats and a clearer view of the stage. It was definitely worthy of all the hype and publicity. The Phantom of the Opera continues to be a worldwide sensation for good reason, and I recommend it to everyone, even those indifferent towards musical theatre.