LET’S face it, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s archetypal musical was such a populist stroke of genius that it quickly became a victim of its own success. So brilliantly did it ooze mass appeal that your more elite observer couldn’t wait to cock a snoop at its ‘pedestrian vulgarity’.
The truth is there is nothing particularly pedestrian or vulgar about The Phantom of the Opera. Nor does it possess any more of the cheesy elements associated with any other blockbuster musical. It also has more going for it in terms of anthemic tunes and attention-grabbing scenes than many of its contemporaries.
And the new production from Cameron Mackintosh deserves to negate some of the hammy cachet which has, unfairly, evolved around Phantom. This is a much darker, less pretty, version than that which took the world by storm in the 1980s.
And memories of Michael Crawford (and Frank Spencer) are banished by a spellbinding performance from John Owen-Jones in the lead. His voice has the required range, dexterity, power and subtlety to deliver songs which are a genuine challenge for any singer.
Katie Hall is impressive but a tad shrill as Christine, the Phantom’s love interest, while Simon Bailey is capable as his love rival, the Vicomte de Chagny, but the part never really gives him the chance to shine on a par with the other leads.
No matter, Phantom is back and it’s bigger, bleaker and better than before.
To September 15.