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FAMILIAR, BUT STILL MESMERISING

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THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Andrew Lloyd Webber Composer
Charles Hart Lyricist
Richard Stilgoe Additional Lyrics
Director Grant Messe
Musical Director Michael Nicholas Williams
Choreographer Leigh Evans
Designer Alan Lees

at St James Theatre, Wellington
From 13 Jun 2013 to 6 Jul 2013

Reviewed by Ewen Coleman, 14 Jun 2013
originally published in The Dominion Post

It's finally here. After 25 years playing in London, on Broadway and in many other cities around the world Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera has finally arrived on stage in Wellington.

The story of how a disfigured musical genius hides away in the Paris Opera House and terrorises the opera company for the unwitting benefit of a young protégé whom he trains and loves is probably one of the best known of modern musicals.

It has also been a movie and most of the songs have been covered by numerous singers during the years. There is therefore a strong and well-defined pedigree with a show like this and expectations are high for how Wellington Musical Theatre will deliver with its production of one of the most famous of modern- day musicals.

On the whole the production comes out a winner, with director Grant Meese, musical director Michael Nicholas Williams and choreographer Leigh Evans and their creative production team pushing all the right buttons to present a top-rate show that delivers in bucket loads.

While the set at times lacked atmosphere and the crashing chandelier was a little disappointing, the boat scene through the murky, misty waterways of underground Paris worked exceptionally well.

The costuming of the production was also superb, especially the large ensemble scenes, which were also exceptionally well choreographed.

As the Phantom, Chris Crowe gave a measured performance that will grow with confidence as the season progresses. Nevertheless, he was able to show that there was much more to the figure behind the mask than just a ghoul.

As his protégé Christine, Barbara Graham excelled, particularly in her solo numbers, and with Crowe's Phantom they together avoided overplaying the final scenes and making them overly sentimental.

Competing for Christine's love against the Phantom is Raoul, the patron of the Opera Company and in this role James Adams excelled. A consummate actor, he also showed great vocal strength and virtuosity in his musical numbers.

And all other supporting roles were equally strong, making the overall production still hauntingly mesmerising no matter how well the songs are known.

So get a ticket to this show whatever you do and experience "the music of the night".
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 Jo Hodgson