LAOS Production of The Phantom of the Opera
First performed in 1986, at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, The Phantom of the Opera is based on a 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux, and tells the tale of a disfigured musical genius who haunts the Paris Opera House. Mesmerised by the talents and beauty of the young soprano Christine, the Phantom lures her as his protégé and falls fiercely in love with her. When Christine’s childhood sweetheart comes back into her life, the Phantom’s obsession causes a dramatic turn of events where jealousy, madness and passions collide.
For me – and apologies to any die hard Lloyd-Webber fans – it doesn’t excuse the fact that the crux of the story is a man who is so insecure he would rather become a murderous recluse than reveal his scars. Christine, like many girls, may be a sucker for a genius musician, but even she knows Phantom’s soul is more repulsive than his face.
The Loughborough Amateur Dramatic Society (LAOS) production, directed by Sally Bruton, leans into the high drama of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical with lavish staging and intensely skilled vocals.
Natalie Littlewood gets off to a strong start as Christine with a sweet rendition of Think of Me, and only gets stronger. She swoops up to those piercing high notes and is complemented beautifully by the skills of both her leading men – Cameron Stephenson as childhood sweetheart Raoul, and the brilliant James Highton as the Phantom himself. Assisted by the sound teams assistance in reverbing Phantom’s ghostly voice around the venue, Highton cuts an incredibly haunting presence as the formidable recluse.
Jo Dring is brilliant as stern ballet master Madame Giry, allowing her vulnerability to show as the show progresses, while some comic relief is supplied by dramatic divas Carlotta and Piangi played by Clare Proctor and Adrian Dobson, as well as Ryan Sargisson and David Burton as the skittish new theatre owners Andre and Firmin.
The well-executed ensemble numbers and this company’s superbly combined skills generate some of the more climatic moments including the act two scene opener of the masquerade ball which is the perfect culmination of LAOS’s staging and Harriet North’s exquisite choreography. The dance school is used to great effect with the daintiness of Aimee Fardell-Wilson’s ballet choreography. It really feels like we have gone back in time with these young performers. The LAOS group as a theatrical company contributes well depicting the chaotic energy of theatre as we are sucked into the drama of the mythical man in the rafters all of which increases the sense of intrigue with the audience. For an amateur company this challenging show is exceptionally well done.
The orchestra, led by James Stevens, is totally fabulous and perfectly balanced to bring out the rock element of Lloyd Webbers rock-musicial score, as well as the drama of those iconic chords. The impact of Lloyd Webber’s composition remains as potent almost 40 years after its inception with the vocal strength of the leads to match.
There is nothing understated about this musical, with drama percussing every aspect from the thundering chords to the incredible fiery effects. I am utterly mesmerised throughout the whole production as are the audience and tonight there is a tremendously appreciative standing ovation.
Bravi bravissimo to the LAOS props department who have considered every little detail to create many magnificent sets, flipping between opulent opera and hazy underworld with the rise and fall of a curtain – complete with gondola. The only staging niggle is the boxes positioned straight on makes them difficult to see from the middle of the row.
My opening plot criticisms aside, this is a truly fantastic production of a flawed story. LAOS is performing The Phantom of the Opera at Loughborough Town Hall until 9th September 2023. Find out more here https://www.loughboroughtownhall.co.uk/events/2023/09/05/the_phantom_of_the_opera