I can’t even begin to explain how excited I was to visit my current favourite musical, The Phantom of the Opera, for the fourth time during my weekend London trip for West End Live (see my last two Phantom reviews here and here). There have been some notable cast changes in the leading roles since my last visit over a year ago, which I have mixed opinions about, but overall the experience succeeded in reminding me why I love this show so much.
Ben Forster currently portrays the Phantom, and he generally gives a good performance. His vocals in the title song and Music of the Night are brilliant, although his accent does strangely seem to switch between British and American at times, and occasionally some sustained vowel sounds become distorted, which can be a problem in some of the most climactic moments of these famous pieces. However, Forster does encapsulate the character well, and his character’s evident love for Lisa Anne Wood as Christine is believable and heart breaking in the Final Lair scene.
Alternate Christine, Lisa Anne Wood, is absolutely brilliant. Having only recently taken on the role of alternate Christine having understudied the part for a while, she performs it immaculately. She seems to bring something new to the character, giving it a bit more life and energy than usual, and her voice is simply divine, as displayed early on in Think of Me. Nadim Naaman plays Raoul, and he may have become my favourite actor to play the part ever! He makes Raoul a more likable figure, showing realistic interactions and reactions, and his and Wood’s performance of All I Ask of You is beautiful.
Long-time Phantom cast member Philip Griffiths portrayed Monsieur Andre at this performance (despite being the second cover), opposite Michael Matus as Firmin. It was great to see Griffiths in a leading role, and both men work together well, although they are not the most hilarious pairing of managers I’ve seen in my various visits to this show. However, I still adore their notes scenes, and their clear lack of knowledge about the ballet!
There are several musical numbers in the show which are particularly powerful, and all of these were absolutely nailed during this performance. The act 1 finale, All I Ask of You Reprise, is so moving and ends dramatically, and Forster conveys the Phantom’s emotions at this point in the plot believably. Masquerade is visually and aurally spectacular, featuring the stunning dance routines and movements and intricate costumes and props, meaning that it is difficult to know where to look as there is so much going on. The mausoleum scene is another musical highlight, because at this point the three main characters sing different melodies, all expressing their issues and predicaments, becoming extremely powerful, particularly due to the stunning vocals of Forster, Wood and Naaman.
However, my absolute favourite part of the show is Past the Point of No Return, leading into the Final Lair – and I have never enjoyed it more than during this performance! Forster’s emotion while singing the line ‘Christine, I love you’ is so incredibly sad, and Naaman’s reactions while in the noose are brilliantly believable, generating so much sympathy from the audience. Wood does a great job of being stuck in the middle, unsure of which way to turn, and I cannot fault her acting or singing here in the slightest!
The Phantom of the Opera remains my absolute favourite musical today! The current West End cast are fantastic, and work together very well in the larger scenes, while also maintaining the level of emotion required for the more intimate sections. Although some of the leads are not necessarily the best I feel I’ve seen before, I thoroughly enjoyed the show and the cast pull off some of the most powerful moments perfectly. I’m now left wondering when I can go back for a fifth visit…!
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