Following our epic night seeing Les Miserables live on stage back in April, we didn’t let another UK trip pass without seeing another musical in West End. We picked the classic love story set on the Paris Opera House, The Phantom of the Opera. It’s the second longest running musical in West End, premiering in 1986 (just a year and a month older than me!) and still performs at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Haymarket.
At 10 in the morning, I walked to Leicester Square to get on-the-day passes for Phantom. The TKTS booth is an official seller of discounted West End tickets. On my way to TKTS, I found a couple of authorized shops (can’t vouch though if these are legit) along Cranbourn Street selling cheap tickets. I inquired with two shops and found the price a bit steep so I proceeded to TKTS.
Since they just opened at 10, the queue was short and the line moved efficiently. I made a list of musicals at the back of my head in case my preferred show isn’t available. Lo and behold, Matilda, our first choice (more on another post!) was sold out so we had to settle with The Phantom of the Opera. It’s not a bad second choice at all, given our enthusiasm the moment we saw its lavish set and costumes in the Victoria & Albert Museum. We’re beyond excited!
We arrived at Her Majesty’s Theatre half an hour before the show starts and went straight to the stalls. Yes, that means we’re seated on the first floor! We can see the orchestra conductor’s baton waving in the air from where we were seated. Our view was slightly restricted, though, with the awning of the level above us but it wasn’t so bad.
I attempted to watch the film version of The Phantom of the Opera two months ago but wasn’t too impressed that I slept halfway through. The stage version, however, was awesome right at the very beginning! When the chandelier was revealed, pulled up (it was swaying towards the audience I thought I was gonna have a heart attack!) and lit, accompanied by the famous Phantom of the Opera theme in full blast and the “opera” was transformed to its former glory – gosh, right there and then, I got my money’s worth!
The musical has a lot of sets and my favorite was the phantom’s lair, especially how the stage was transformed and all the stuff put together. Giant candelabras sprouted from the ground while the phantom and Christine arrives on a moving gondola.
Another favorite scene was the dazzling Masquerade/Why So Silent number! It was a visual feast with actors in flamboyant costumes and masks, beautifully composed on the winding staircase of the Paris Opera House. This is the set we saw in the V&A back in April and the human scale sure didn’t disappoint. It’s also nice to see the Red Mask costume worn and moving than being displayed on a glass case. Aside from the set and costume, the song’s really catchy, too. In fact, we’ve been singing Masquerade the past few weeks, complete with choreography. Lol
I love how we were like a part of the show. Aside from the swinging chandelier that was almost right on our faces, we hear the phantom’s voice surrounding the theater, too. The special effects, although not of outstanding value as what you’d expect these days, are effective as well. It adds up to the surprise/shock factor as if we’re the actual audience Christine and company was playing for. If you get what I mean…
And may I add the astounding performance of the actors? Especially to Celinde Schoenmaker who played Christine Daae. She endured two and a half hours hitting high notes! While I’m not a huge fan of soprano, I think this musical converted me into one.
Overall it was a brilliant show and with discounted tickets, it was all the more a perfect night in West End. I wish to see The Phantom of the Opera in Broadway as well. I just learned it was the longest running musical over there. And should they come to Dubai like our beloved Les Mis, we will watch it again for sure. Indeed, the phantom of the opera is here, inside my mind!
PS. Sorry for the crappy photos, I was too lazy to pick up the big camera upon sitting. :S
PPS. Image in cover c/o lovetheatre.com