Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 September 2019

5 things to expect when The Phantom of the Opera comes to Dubai

The National travels to Singapore to see the production before its UAE debut in October

Jonathan Roxmouth is brilliant in the title role of The Phantom of the Opera. Picture courtesy of Dubai Opera.
Jonathan Roxmouth is brilliant in the title role of The Phantom of the Opera. Picture courtesy of Dubai Opera.

Obsession, madness and jealousy married to catchy tunes and flamboyant costumes.

These are just some of the reasons why The Phantom of the Opera remains a staple of international musical theatre over three decades on.

Ever since its premiere in London in 1986, the Andrew Lloyd Weber production has been performed virtually every night and remains a staple of both London’s West End and New York’s Broadway theatre districts.

Based on the 1907 classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, the plot revolves around a French theatre company struggling under the throes of its Phantom; a disfigured musical prodigy that lives beneath the theatre, occasionally haunting it by sending the odd chandelier crashing on to the stage.

Mesmerised by the house's new vocal talent, Christine, the Phantom takes her under his cape, so to speak, mentoring her on a journey to become a star soprano. With Christine's success comes the attention of the opera house's benefactor and former childhood friend Raul. Their romance sends the Phantom into a jealous frenzy and murder and mayhem ensues.

With the production, run under the company Broadway Entertainment, set to make its regional premiere in Dubai Opera from October 16 as part of its world tour, The National attended a sold-out performance at Marina Bay Sands Theatre in Singapore to find out what UAE theatre lovers have can expect to see. Here are five things to look out for

The production is on point

With the story juxtaposing between the rich and vibrant theatre scene to the cold and murky underworld where the Phantom resides, big production values are necessary to do the tale justice.

The Broadway Entertainment version delivers. The scenery changes seamlessly, courtesy of stage backdrops descending or entering from the stage wings.

There are over 200 costumes, each filled with great detail. From the lush regalia worn by the French nobility to the lavish ballgowns and ballet attire worn by the characters involved in the theatre-side of the tale.

The Phantom’s Gothic lair is also beautifully realised with candelabras and exquisite furniture steeped in a smoke-machine-created fog. With chandeliers crashing to the floor, a boat cruising a Parisian canal and dramatic use of stage lighting, the production is visually appealing.

The Phantom is immense

Any production of the Phantom of the Opera lives and dies by the choice of its lead actor. Fortunately, the producers did a great did a fine job by casting Jonathan Roxmouth in the title role. The South African actor, who will also star in the Dubai Opera run, was simply immense in his performance. A towering stage presence, Roxmouth’s sheer physicality played a key role in establishing his character’s developing menace. While his soulful tenor was left to capture the hurt and agony behind the Phantom’s seeming vindictiveness. His standing ovation in Singapore was thoroughly deserved.

The songs live on

A key reason why The Phantom of the Opera remains a cast favourite is that the score provides everyone with a chance to shine. Roxmouth delivered a beautiful performance of The Music of the Night, a key song used to expose his character’s vulnerability. Meghan Picerno, who took on the role of Christine in the Singapore production (another actor, soon to be announced, will take over for the Dubai Opera shows) was also enchanting in Think of Me, the song that takes her from chorus girl to star soprano. Another highlight is Masquerade, a fun romp performed by the exquisitely dressed cast in the midst of lavish theatre party. And of course, the musical is heavily laced with its signature organ theme announcing the arrival of the Phantom - 30 years on and it’s as thrilling as it is catchy.

It is oh-so eighties

For such a long running production, the plotline has stayed very true to form and hasn’t pandered to the modern age. This is no Hamilton with references to today’s cultural landscape. Instead, it sticks to its 1980s roots and that is mostly due to Webber’s score which is loaded with rich organs, pounding drums and prog-rock arrangements. It makes for a delightful two and a half hours of entertainment.

It speaks of the artistic process

Many people who have seen The Phantom of the Opera on numerous occasions over multiple years would confess to gleaning a new insight each time, myself included. My Singapore experience was the first time I had watched the show in nearly two decades. I was surprised – well, perhaps not since I was in my late teens at the time — that I hadn't picked up on the production’s hidden meditation on the artistic process in my early viewings. The Phantom, despite his occasional bloodlust, is the kind of music teacher you want to have at your side. Stern and dedicated, he reminds us that excellence in all fields is as much graft as it is craft.

The Phantom of the Opera runs at Dubai Opera from October 16-30. Ticket prices start at Dh250 and can be purchased at www.dubaiopera.com

Updated: May 3, 2019 10:29 AM

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