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West End, March 29, 2014 (Rauch/Brereton/Hansen) (my 50th!)

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West End, March 29, 2014 (Rauch/Brereton/Hansen) (my 50th!)  Empty West End, March 29, 2014 (Rauch/Brereton/Hansen) (my 50th!)

Post  operafantomet Mon Aug 04, 2014 10:16 pm

Better late than never, here is my March review from London, when I saw my 50th Phantom performance.  Smile 

Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, Saturday matinée, March 29, 2014

PHANTOM: Gerónimo Rauch
CHRISTINE: Olivia Brereton (alt.)
RAOUL: Antony Hansen (u/s)
CARLOTTA: Lara Martins
FIRMIN: Andy Hockley
ANDRÉ: Martin Ball
MADAME GIRY: Jacinta Mulcahy
MEG GIRY: Layla Harrison (u/s)
PIANGI: Jeremy Secomb

IN GENERAL: Rather full house, I’m happy to say. Still snugged a single seat in the second row in the stalls. I love seeing new cast members closeup. A bit pouty that the cast was near identical to last time. Luckilly a GOOD cast, and a brand new Phantom.

Didn’t feel like a “phanatic” AT ALL when I asked for 6 souvenir brochures, 1 programme and 1 overpriced pen.

AUCTION: Immediately spotted that there was a different auctioneer on. I think Philip Griffiths is the only auctioneer in the world to speak in a dry, snotty Oxford way. Everyone else does this spooky voice, so also this u/s. But he was good. I learned later, at the stage door, that it was Tim Morgan. The nurse put her hand on old Raoul’s shoulder, so he could squeeze her hand when he wanted to bid. Nice detail. One of the porter’s had an extremely dark voice.

HANNIBAL: Olivia Brereton really is tall. She’s by far the tallest of the corps de ballet. Liked the look of the new managers. It appeared Firmin was more of a comic relief than André. Usually it’s opposite in West End. Ellen Jackson was on as seamstress/dresser! Does a very good "shit, I dropped the needle on the floor, I better find it before someone steps on it" routine. But Öh nö. Inspector Clouseau is in da building. Jacinta Mulhany (Madame Giry) döes a veeery FRENCH accent. Why? Whatever it might add to her role, it’s problematic in terms of logic. We’re supposed to be in France, everyone and their mother is French (except the leading ladies), wouldn’t they all have a French accent? I can see why it’s tempting, but it doesn’t make sense.

I have no idea who the Reyer was. It wasn’t Philip Griffiths, and not Tim Morgan. Anyone? Also, liked Jeremy Secomb’s Piangi a LOT better than last time.


THINK OF ME: Jacinta’s Madame paused for the longest time when Meg suggested Christine could sing, with her back to the others. Like she didn’t see it coming, but was intrigued about the turn of events. Olivia Brereton started out very timid, and didn’t really increase in volume. She also sung with this small-girl-nasal voice. To sound younger and more insecure than she is? Not pleasant to listen to anyhow. Also shakier cadenza than last time.

ANGEL OF MUSIC: Creepy Buquet still there. But instead of rubbing himself agains one ballerina, as last time, he now just looked creepy as they went past him, picked up the powder box, and went off stage. Creepy, but subdued, liked it a lot more. Layla Harrison’s Meg glanced back several times when sneaking away, to make sure no-one saw her. I had forgot just how good and cute voice she has. She’s a marvelous Meg. Ellen Jackson (dresser/seamstress) always looks so proud of her Christines, it’s so cute. Spotted that Olivia B. wears a red pair of pants with green stripes, like the old Stockholm ones! The other appeared to wear green ones?

LITTLE LOTTE: Very rapid dancing from the ballerinas. I like that they, instead of looking as aesthetical as possible, displays this French air of ballet, rapid legs, quick movements, highly concentrated, tilted torsos. In fact, I found myself zooming out a bit to watch them. One of my favourite parts of the whole show. I spotted Hansen’s Raoul trying to kiss Christine as a greeting, though. Like, big fat kiss on the mouth. Nice move, Raoul.

MIRROR: Blah-blah. Nothing new. Which feels strange to write, seeing I saw a new Phantom for the first time. But this was just very standard routine. But I liked that Hansen’s Raoul kinda snuck up outside the dressing room, put his ear to the door, and just stood there listening, baffled, instead of calling Christine’s name and/or banging at the door. Very in sync with Leroux, that.

TITLE SONG: Front row is magic. I love seeing the mist coming towards me. Liked the singing here a lot too, deep and steady. But OK, so in London they only have doubles for the first trap door, and then the actual leads does the whole travellator? It very much looked like it. Maybe because so many were off, haha. Gerónimo Rauch did some interesting, intense breathing when Christine was singing. Not awkward orgasmic one, rather very concentrated. Cool.

MOTN: I like how everything from TOM leads up to this moment, when everything goes silent, the Phantom breath in, you can hear a needle drop, and then starts to sing. The audience is really attentive here. And Gerónimo Rauch certainly delivers the goods! What I love about him is that where other might cheat their way out of tricky notes or a hard transition from resitativ to singing, Gerónimo “guns on” and displays a lot of volume. He never left me worried if he’s miss a note or go sharp/flat. Outstanding voice. ALMOST JOJ level. Also in acting. Meaning, not really reinventing the role, but making up for it with gorgeous vocals. Heh, and he and Olivia is about the same height. I wonder why she doesn’t just do ballet flats for the lair? She wore heeled shoes. Powah to da tall chick, though. The Mirror Bride was placed very far back. She doesn’t come through the mirror as much as being a reflection in the distance. The mirror is also angled more towards the stage than other places, due to the “catch”.

STYDI: Christine was put sideways in the bed, so when she wakes she’s facing the mirror bride. Nice transition to rediscovering the Phantom. The Mandarin robe looked splendid! Very blue and ornate. I also like that it gives the impression of jumping in time. Had he just wore the same, the audience might be confused on whether it was just meant to be a second later. With the robe something must have happened in between (and by something I don’t mean Joel Schumacher interpretation). Good unmasking! Christine screamed when she saw her face. And then screamed again when he came after her. And again when he kept chasing her. Intense.

NOTES/PRIMADONNA: Loved the new managers. Impossible to pinpoint why. I loved them individually, I loved them as a duo. Very defined, well rounded portrayals, and they milked the comic reliefs without killing them. Nothing new here, except Lara Martins seemed a bit under the weather. Her singing was low key, and she hit the lower end note instead of the high one.

IL MUTO: The people behind me kept CHATTING at the intro, as they had done during the auction scene. I gave them the famous Seinfeld “half turn”.

Have no idea who the fops were played by this evening. They were good. I wonder if Lara Martins has a new countess overdress? Looked new. Still the godawful stomacher though. Turquoise and black, really? I wonder if Olivia Brereton’s wardrobe is new? The Maid skirt and pants definitely looked new. And so glittering at the side. The international Carlottas are really missing a lot of acting fun by not using a fan in this scene. It can be very expressive and fun, and Lara Martins takes it to new levels! Lots of flapping, unflapping, comments mumbled behind it, slapping the annoying jeweler. Haha.
Lara Martins struggled quite a bit in the singing here. The was much delayed throughout the "poor fool/hahaha" section, and her top notes were shaky. She’s been spot on every time before, I assumed she struggled with a cold as the rest of the cast. Attentive conductor, though, and great croaking.

BALLET: Loved how the male dancer yelled something in the alley of "Stop! Something is wrong" to the conductor right before running off stage. And that a bald Buquet actor meant a bald Buquet dummy. They don’t always co-ordinate them…

ROOFTOP: I liked how Hansen’s Raoul ordered Christine to stay in one spot while he searched for “the voice”: Not in an authoritive way, more a way of protecting her and exposing himself to the danger. Not as impressed with him pointing to her head when singing "…inside your mind". Don’t have to be THAT literal. Good singing from both, but I never really felt this song in any production. My bad, not theirs. Another great costume. The mint/pink fabric, but with antique pink details. Very beautiful.

I GAVE YOU MY MUSIC: This was a rather plain version of it. I dunno, I expected more of him, because of the grand voice he has. But it was pretty standard. So happy the glowing eyes and mouths of the Golden Angel sculptures still worked.

ENTRACTE: And oh yes, the people behind me chatted. Who is the current conductor? James McKeon? He smiles when conducting and sings along at places. How cute is that? They also don’t seem to be as in a hurry in the pit as before.

MASQUERADE: More new costumes since last time. Butterfly girl was SO beautiful! And Hula Girl was on, as a lot of the main cast was off. I don’t really have anything to add about the scene, though. very solid, as usual, and a feast after drinking a glass of champagne all too quickly during intermission. Annoyed the crap out of me that they STILL haven’t managed to get the Red Death double’s laughter back. It’s been gone for some 5 years, c’mon. Also noticed Gerónimo’s Phantom run off stage instead of using the trap door.

BACKSTAGE TALE: Öh dear, zö very French. I liked Jacinta Mulhany’s Madame Giry a lot in terms of singing and acting, but that French accent has to go. Please.

NOTES/TWISTED: Olivia Brereton appears to wear Sierra Boggess’ RAH dress. I think I commented on that last time as well. It closes in the back instead of the front, and the decorations looks identical. Didn’t think the comedy was milked as much here as in act 1, but still very solid.

DON JUAN REHEARSAL: Man in bowlerhat’s laughter was absolutely priceless, it cracked up people in the cast too it seemed.

MAUSOLEUM SCENE: Olivia Brereton did a stunning WYWSHA. Very genuine acting and this is the song where she used her voice the best. no “small girl” nasal singing, she added a lot of volume to her voice, and switched between rich head and chest voice. Lady, why can’t you sing like this the whole show?

She also did some wonderful acting here, truly belting out "AND SPEAKS MY NAAAAAAAME”, then leaning forward, sobbing, shaking. Very touching. It also made the hairpin holding her hood in place come loose so the hood totally framed her face, and it actually looked stunning. The hood eventually came loose and slipped down from her head in the second half of the show, and it looked very right as well.

It was amazing to hear the graveyard trio with THREE powerful voices. They balanced eachother very well. Olivia Brereton’s in trance acting and Antony Hansen’s superhero Raoul was a good match to Geronimo Rauch’s commanding Phantom.

PONR: Lo-ho-ving Olivia Brereton’s Aminta costume. Want a full length photo of it. Gerónimo did a great Italian(/Spanish) accent. Along with the thinner and taller Piangi they have I don’t think the random newbie in the audience immediately understood it was the Phantom. But earlier in the show Gero’s Phantom has had some very memorable gasps and sighs when Christine has been around, and he started doing them here too. Which was a really nice touch. He also went on his knee at the proposal, perfectly mimicking Raoul’s rooftop proposal. Fantastic detail. It’s like the phantom’s only reference to normal romantic behaviour is what he’s seen Raoul do, so he copies his rival.

DOWN ONCE MORE: Great singing from Gerónimo here, nailed that high note. Christine appears to turn to him to say something, but instead he was grabbed by her neck. At this move I could see that the Aminta costume was all open in the back, for the quick change. Happy costume nerd.

FINAL LAIR: The battle between this Phantom and Christine was more of a mind game than a physical battle. I rather liked that. Not that there wasn’t an element of drama, but it was like both held back to see where this was leading, to try and read eachother - until Raoul arrived. Superhero!Raoul of course stumbled towards the Phantom right away, to get him, to kill him probably, only stopped by Christine. Hahaha, oh you.

Christine was thrown to the floor when protecting Raoul, that’s a clear message if ever I saw one. After "…I gave my mind blindly" Gero’s Phantom knelt and was about to kiss Christine, she was about to kiss him back. Then he rapidly rose and turned away - make your choice. But this gave Christine the idea of what “the beast” needed. And she gave it to him, kissed him good, and then she nodded her head when he tore away, as to say "I chose you, now what?".

Gero’s Phantom fell to his knees again at Christine’s return, to offer her the ring anew, proposal style. This Phantom is trying so hard, baaah. Once again great to hear how much volume he adds to his voice where others may go a bit quiet. "Niiiiiight" was felt all through the auditorium. The people behind me could not get over how the Phantom just disappeared. They started discussing it though the show was not over. Thanks a lot. Next time you’ll get more than the “Seinfeld half-turn”.

While I don’t think Gerónimo Rauch and Olivia Brereton reinvents the roles, they both have some very good details going on. Gerónimo also has a large voice and totally delivers the good. Olivia can when she wants to, judging from WYWSHA. I’m so curious as to whether her “little girl” voice is an acting choice or to avoid straining her voice. But since it came off as very nasal at times, I would think it would be straining to sing like that? Maybe she too had a cold and saved her voice. I dunno. Whatever the case, her acting was waaaay more intriguing than last time, where she basically stopped acting somewhere around Il Muto. Voice wise she sung better last time. But I’d take this portrayal with weaker voice over the flat portrayal with slightly better voice any time.

Antony Hansen, Lara Martins and Jeremy Secomb were very solid as always. Layla Harrison outstanding, as always. And I really approved of the new managers. Liked Jacinta’s Madame too, but ze French accent was unnecessary.

Loved the energy from the cast and the conductor/orchestra, I gotta say. Nice to get that on a Saturday matinée where lots of people were of and where you’d expect the cast to be a bit tired. And very unison singing from the cast, though it sounded like they lacked a soprano or two. The male voices dominated. But first and foremost, i loved the amount of details and how well kept the production is.

So, my 50th time was a super solid, nice and fairly safe performance. I like it more edgy, but I was really happy with what I saw too. Very much so!

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