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Phantom London 30th Anniversary: Forster/Schoenmaker/Naaman – 10 October 2016

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Phantom London 30th Anniversary: Forster/Schoenmaker/Naaman – 10 October 2016 Empty Phantom London 30th Anniversary: Forster/Schoenmaker/Naaman – 10 October 2016

Post  Raphael Thu Jan 05, 2017 5:08 am

Hey folks. Long-time phan here, but I haven't been back to DesertedPhans in quite some time. But I figured this review might be of some interest to many of you. I hope you enjoy it.

My friends and I were incredibly fortunate to attend the 30th Anniversary performance of my favorite musical, which just happened to coincide with my 50th time seeing the show overall. It was a pleasant consolation prize considering the Paris production -- which we had long since purchased tickets to see the following week -- had recently been cancelled due to the fire that damaged the Theatre Mogador.

I've been a Phantom of the Opera fan since the early 1990s, but I wasn't a megafan until several years later. And while I did visit London back in 1993, I only made it as far as the lobby of Her Majesty's to buy a souvenir brochure (My Phantom would have been Peter Karrie. INORITE?!?!?!?!?!?!?), so this trip was my first experience seeing the show in its original home (which we wound up doing three times in all – with the good fortune of seeing a different Phantom at each performance). And between a 2 and 1/2 year break from Phantom and all the little nuances that differentiate the London production from the US versions, it was like seeing it with fresh eyes.

There was a bit of a crowd in front of Her Majesty's as part of the "Red Carpet Pre-Show" that was broadcast live on Facebook. My friends and I stuck around for a bit to check it out but the only Phantom celebrity we saw was Sierra Boggess (formerly of the Paris production) who spoke to the reporter briefly. Eager to get to our seats, we made our way inside to the Royal Circle and discovered that all attendees received a free souvenir brochure with a special 30th Anniversary wraparound cover and insert. Yay free swag!

Some of the things that set the London production apart from the US versions I'd seen previously in the Royal Albert Hall 25th Anniversary production. The more formal and stuffy Auctioneer was definitely a jarring change from the creepier ones that open the show in the US, and set a slightly different tone to the proceedings. While the US version has the feel of an abstract dream (perhaps a dream Raoul has as he himself passes away), this was more literal auction– even to the point that the Auctioneer interrupted himself when a higher bid is placed for one of the items. Also Porters? Spoke like they were super-bored, which was amusing all on its own.

Nadim Naaman's Raoul may not have looked decrepit -- I could barely tell from a distance and lighting if he was wearing any aged makeup or not -- but his delivery of, "Boy…" was tinged with great pain, like it took a great deal of effort to speak which made it convincing.

Has the lightning effect always been part of the chandelier rising?

Direct quote from my notes: "Princess is super-cute. BUY a programme to find out who that is." And, "Dude, how many bottles of baby oil did they use on the Slave Master?"

So unlike in the US, London Christines dance the whole ballet (or at the very least, the majority of it), because I spotted Celinde Schoenmaker right off the bat. Hard to miss her, actually, due to her height. I don't know if it's just a Dutch thing, but she's like, REALLY tall. Like, the kind of tall that makes less-than-average-height folks like myself angry. Makes us want to punch things. How dare you hog all the height for yourself. The rest of us have needs too, you know. Like actually making use of the top shelf of a cupboard without having to use a stepladder.

But I digress.

Celinde entered with the rest of the ballet chorus and did a good job intentionally making Christine NOT look like the best dancer, her movements slightly less polished and behind tempo, sometimes looking to Meg to follow the choreography.

Piangi, played by Paul Ettore Tabone (who, when squinting, reminded me of a cross between comedian Gilbert Gottfreid and "Red Dwarf" actor Craig Charles), had a memorable entrance, coming out as he does but pausing and flicking his eyes up and to the side as if he had to take a moment to remember his line. I also enjoyed Philip Griffith's Reyer, his loud and demanding delivery living up to Lefevre's "tyrant" moniker moreso than any Reyer I've seen previously.

And bonus points for Christine having to lean out of the way of Piangi's cape after it flutters into her face when the slavegirls are all lined up at the footlights.

The talking by the ensemble when Lefevre tried to get their attention was amusingly extended in London, with him asking Reyer for help (who promptly ignores him) and then sputtering about for a few moments before Madame Giry aided him with a single thump of her cane. It's a very subtle difference, but the cast milked the moment just enough to make it more humorous.

Mark Oxtoby's André was a definite standout amongst the cast as well, kissing Carlotta's hand rather loudly three times when he is introduced to her and later, when she puts one end of her scarf in his hands while singing "Think of Me" and lets it trails through his fingers as she walks away – his expression of longing as his eyes never left the scarf was priceless. And it definitely had an effect on Piangi, who glared at him while snatching up the scarf and placing it back on Carlotta's shoulder as she walked back around to center stage.

Speaking of Carlotta, I really enjoyed the little things Megan Llewellyn brought to the role as well, particularly her penchant for slapping other performers who displeased her. In this scene, it was swatting the Soldier who was reading a newspaper while she was singing. Her incredulous delivery of "These things do happen?" and diva-esque "THIS thing does NOT happen!" were the right amounts of over-the-top without spilling over.

Think of Me:
London Reyer snaps his fingers to bring Meg to his side after she hands Christine Carlotta's scarf, and doesn't offer to show her the score prior to her impromptu audition. This omission actually makes Reyer a bit nicer than his US counterparts, who often use that moment to be a bit of a dick, either showing it to her for less than a second or presenting it to her only to close it in her face.

I felt overall that Celinde's performance was more vibrant in delivery and acting at this show compared to the matinee a couple nights previous. I'm not sure if it was because this was THE 30th Anniversary performance or because she was saving some of her energy for a 2-show day, but regardless she was really at the top of her game here. Her first line was very quiet and timid (almost inaudible), becoming slightly stronger with her second line as she kept her eyes on Madame Giry after she thumped her cane, and her third growing word by word into full voice, eliciting a reaction from the rest of her fellow performers, including Reyer, who looked pleasantly surprised at the fresh new talent hiding under his nose for who knows how long.

Celinde's voice is sort of contemporary-meets-classical. Although I haven't been keeping up with casts, I've always had the general feeling that London Christines tended to follow the Sarah Brightman "dewdrop in a still pond" quality to their voices, but Celinde's seemed to have a bit more of the deeper fullness common to most US Christines. Physically, she tended to skip a lot when she walked, and her strides took up a lot of distance across the stage. One would think that she was taking smaller steps because two normal strides downstage would have sent her straight into the orchestra pit.


Angel of Music:
Christine's reaction to hearing the Phantom's, "Brava, brava, bravissima…" is usually quite telling of what the actress's take on the relationship between the two will be like. Celinde's was a mix of wonder and fear, leading me to believe she would have a more thoughtful spin on the role. I liked the relationship between her and Daisy Hulbert's Meg as well – definitely a big sister/little sister kind of feel to their interactions. Even the fact that Meg switches position with Christine by sitting on her stool rather than remain standing like she does in the US staging gave the scene a warmer, friendly quality. A moment that I really enjoyed here (which was consistent amongst all of Celinde's performances that we saw) was how she tries to hide a smile when Madame Giry admonishes Meg – as if it was a very common occurrence that she's been privy to.

Little Lotte:
Nadim and Celinde had a nice rapport in this scene, the former having an air of titled formality with an underlying warmth and the latter evoking a feeling of content nostalgia as they reminisced about their childhood, Celinde's expression only faded back to a more serious and slightly wary one as they recalled the story of the Angel of Music.

It's interesting how after you've heard something over and over again done the same way, that when something changes, it knocks you out of your complacency and makes you pay strict attention. In this case, it was Christine's line, "Things have changed," which I've always heard her say after Raoul has left. And maybe it's just a London thing, but Celinde said it twice, and the first time was much earlier in the scene, which precipitated Raoul's, "No, YOU must change; I must get my hat." It works either way, but this felt a little more naturalistic, and made Raoul feel less like he was ignoring Christine's protests.

The Mirror:
I came into the London production cold, not having heard any clips of the principals performing beforehand, so Ben Forster's Phantom came as a bit of a shock.  His "EEN-solent boy!" struck me as a bit too Ren and Stimpy in pronunciation, but vocally he reminded me very much of Franc D'Ambrosio (former San Francisco Phantom) – sort of the same pitch but less operatic and more pop/rock in flavor. He also had a unique reaction to Christine's response after seeing him in the mirror. While at first, she ran to the door as if to flee (another first for me), when she turned back to him and sang, "Angel of Music! Guide and guardian, come to me strange angel!" he was almost surprised at her reaction, his poise visibly broken for a moment before he went into his, "I am your Angel of Music" shtick.

Phantom of the Opera:
Okay, there is NO WAY the Christine double thing was going to work with Celinde as principal. None of them have her European supermodel-esque proportions.

The boat scene is always a thrill and really encapsulates the aura of magic that I love so much about this show. Ben's labored breathing really gave the climax (so to speak) of the scene a distinct feeling – one that it was like the Phantom was getting off on Christine's high notes. And I'm not sure if this is London or just something of Celinde's, but Christine was a lot more physical here compared to US Christine who mostly just seem to stand and the voice comes out of them. Celinde appeared to take a page out of Rebecca Caine's playbook from the Toronto official music video, using her whole body – especially her arms and hands – to emphasize and underline the ecstasy that is usually just the subtext of the scene.

Music of the Night:
Aside from committing the same crime as Phantom swing Luke McCall days earlier by just pounding on the organ and not moving his hands up and down the keyboard as dictated by the notes in the pre-recorded music, overall, I felt Ben's Phantom was very unique. While all Phantoms I'd seen prior have exuded a great deal of confidence from their first appearance in the mirror up until the unmasking, Ben's was more in-the-moment, seeming to act based on Christine's reactions to him (think, "Okay, that seemed to go well, umm… let's try this"), which gave a naturalistic quality to the scene.

Celinde's Christine was engaged as well, which I enjoyed (never been much of a fan of Hypno!Christine), and there was more of an attraction between herself and the Phantom than I'm used to seeing in this scene. For instance, when she ran from him while he was sprawled against the portcullis, she did so almost giddily rather than fearful as has always been the norm for me. She was the same opposite McCall, so I assumed it was her de facto interpretation.

The MotN choreography is essentially the same in London as it is in the US, with the exception of the quirky "Close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar" bit where the Phantom clutches his hand in front of Christine's stomach and then raises it above her head, making her posture lift and tilt her head back like she's on strings or something. There's also a moment here and there where Ben would caress her cheek with the back of his hand or inhale the scent of her hair that isn't in the US version that gave the scene a bit more intimacy.

Stranger than You Dreamt It:
Ben again played things down the middle – not as manically into composing as Luke McCall was previously, but more naturalistic. Like: playplayplay – pause – "Okay, that's good, let me write that down." Very grounded. I liked Celinde's approach to Christine awakening the next morning – singing the first couple of line while still laying down with her eyes closed, only sitting up (with a start) when she remembers the lake, and then slowly turning her head in the Phantom's direction as she sings, "(…) there was a man…" I also liked Celinde's reaction to the unmasking in how she raised her hand up as if to shield herself like Mary Philbin did in the 1925 movie as well as how, when he crawled towards her for his very Karimloo-esque STYDI, she scurried all the way up against the proscenium until she couldn't get any farther away.

Magical Lasso:
No ballerinas screaming at the top of this scene, but more music/swooshing melodic instrumentation. And Hadrian Delacey's Buquet (whose bald head reminded me of a less intimidating Vinnie Jones) didn't seem very scared of Madame Giry – more like annoyed that she was spoiling his fun.

Notes I/Prima Donna:
I was pleased that our Firmin (Siôn Lloyd) wasn't the tipsy drunkard that Barry James was in the RAH performance. Siôn's was much more amiable (well, as amiable as Firmins get) and seemed rather happy with all the free press the Opera was getting from the recent backstage drama. And some of Megan's Carlotta was rubbing off on Oxtoby's André because he took to irritatingly slapping Firmin's shoulder for his business obsession of how Carlotta's return to the stage would result in "queues 'round the theatre."

This is, of course, one of the scenes where Megs get the opportunity to do the most to flesh out their character. Daisy Hulbert's Meg is totes adorbs – played very youthfully and sprightly, and with a curious streak that her mother seems to constantly have to keep in check with a tap of her cane or a finger to her lips in a silent "shhh."

Il Muto:
Somewhere in the mid '00s the humor began to fade in the US versions of Il Muto, particularly in how Don Attilio was portrayed. So I was pleased to find it wasn't so in London – where he still had those sustained low notes and took his time to play his role for laughs. A lot of this was the same as in the RAH 25th performance, so it's nice that it was recorded for posterity.

Megan's physically abusive Carlotta was back in great form when she knocked the Hairdresser's powder shield away from her face while singing her line to Don Attilio and batted him again with her fan afterwards. Her wig did look like it was in danger of falling off after Celinde took her down to the mattress – and based on Megan's look of surprise, I don't think it was planned – and it never quite recovered (she even brought her hand up a couple of times afterwards to steady it).

Ben's "Perhaps it is you who are the TOAD!" was delivered with much more venom than other Phantoms I've seen in the past. Practically spitting the last word at the diva, it definitely leaned towards anger rather than sneering disdain. And when she did start croaking and the chandelier started to rock, Celinde had a very strong reaction – rushing back and curling up in a frightened ball on the bed – not unlike her reaction in STYDI.

If his practically drooling over Carlotta wasn't enough to endear his André to me, Oxtoby's super-awkward introduction of the ballet sealed the deal. Entering nervously, the spotlight momentarily shooting past him before focusing properly, his quick and discreet hand and eye gestures to get the conductor to hurry up and switch over to the ballet, nervously parroting the laughter coming from the real audience, some more eyebrow waggling at the conductor, and finally running into three ballerinas on his way out made for a tremendously prolonged and hilarious moment for his character.

All I Ask of You:
It took me awhile to really pin down what Celinde's take on Christine was, and ultimately I think it's far from the shrinking ingénue that many others tend to lean towards. She's more her own woman, as exemplified in the beginning of the rooftop scene where she's not your typical frightened damsel. Celinde sang her lines with a furor, like she was angry at the Phantom's control over her and angry at herself for letting him have that power. It's a definite departure from Christines prior and for the most part it works.

And then Ben's disembodied "Christine" line came in sounding like a barely-decipherable tenor foghorn and you're yanked out of the scene.

The rooftop duet itself was good – Nadim took great care in removing Christine's hood and lifting her long locks out of them to flow down her back attractively before singing his first verse with great earnestness while Celinde took every opportunity to hold/stroke/adjust Raoul's coat lapels whenever she was in his arms. As far as the rooftop kiss went, I kinda preferred Celinde's performance from the previous day just because prior to the initial kiss, she sort of flipped one side of her cloak over her shoulder with this sort of smoldering "C'mere baby" look in her eyes which made me think, "Oh, this is a Christine who knows what she wants. And apparently what she wants is to eat Raoul alive," but other than that, it was pretty similar to other more proactive Christines: first kiss is mostly Raoul, second kiss she really goes in for it. Celinde finished off the song cupping Raoul's face and planting several little kisses. The song also got applause, which apparently only happens during event performances, which held the scene before Celinde dashed off singing, "I must go," with a giddy laugh which brought a lot of warmth and intimacy to their relationship.

Because this was the first time I actually noticed it, watching this scene also made me realize how small Her Majesty's auditorium is – almost as small as The Curran where Phantom played in San Francisco back in the '90s – with the Angel lowering to the level of the Royal Circle. Ben did the "hand first" entrance into the scene, which is the version I've always preferred, and his delivery overall was very Karimloo (one of the few moments in the RAH that I actually enjoyed Karimloo's performance).

Hey, Firmin and André got their masks from the same store! And a nice "Boo!" Firmin threw in there at André at the end of the intro. In another character moment I enjoyed, Meg's eyes turned into saucers when she was presented with the tray of champagne flutes. Madame Giry's baby girl's gonna get hammered tonight!

Okay, given that I was seeing the show for the first time in years from a higher angle, I was convinced that I was seeing Gillian Lynne's new Masquerade choreography. I mean, I don't recall ever seeing Meg and the Goldfish running their hands down the managers' bodies before or Christines ballet-like moves during the bridge, but apparently it's just another one of those quirky differences in the way they do things in London (and speaking of Christine, turns out that eyesore of a Star Princess dress doesn't look quite as garish onstage as it does in photos).

Giry's Confession:
No big changes here. Jacinta Mulcahy was a good Madame Giry (who, for the Whovians out there, was giving me kind of a Tasha Lem vibe), and I understand she used to use an accent that she apparently has since dropped. If I had any comment, I would have liked to have heard a bit more fear or apprehension in her voice when she confessed what she knew of the Phantom's background, but there was nothing that stood out as bad about the scene.

Notes II/Twisted Every Way:
One of the benefits of watching from the Royal Circle after so many performances in the stalls is that you get a better overview (literally) of the action onstage. For instance, in all the times I've seen the show, I've never noticed that while Madame Giry is walking behind the rest of the group, as they go about their business, one of the Phantom's notes slips out of the Don Juan score she is looking at. She then picks it up and reads it as she moves into position at stage right to give everyone the news. That's probably not a revelation to most people, but it's a detail that was new to me.

Celinde solidified her modern, strong Christine in this scene with how she approached the Carlotta/Christine confrontation, delivering a very powerful and forceful, "How DARE you!" to Carlotta's accusations (I mean it easily could have morphed into the Javert/Valjean confrontation). And her "I can't!" as she exits – so often an upset, almost overwhelmed outburst by others – was much more of a firm, declarative statement from Celinde's Christine.

Another moment that I always try to observe in this scene is Carlotta's reaction to "Twisted" with her line, "She's mad!" It can be played many different ways, from snooty to concern, and how the actress delivers it can potentially impart a deeper portrayal of the diva. After Celinde sang, "He'll always be there singing songs in my head…" as if she was realizing the fate ahead of her, Megan's take was dismissive and a bit comical, entrenching her Carlotta as unfeeling. A perfectly valid interpretation, although I much prefer Carlottas that show a little bit of sympathy in this moment.

Also of note here, Nadim's Raoul was very forceful and assertive when he devised his plan on capturing the Phantom. It was a nice shift in his performance.

Don Juan Rehearsal:
The ensemble member whom I shall now refer to as, "The Man Who Laughs" had a nice machine-gun staccato laugh that he sprayed in an arc until his eyes met Carlotta's cold glare. He even got singled out by Reyer; who directed his "Nearly" line more towards him than Piangi. Something about him also made me think of John Cleese, which is always a guarantee to make me laugh. Carlotta also showed great concern for Piangi, looking over the score with him and bringing a genuine sense of support.

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again/Wandering Child:
Celinde served up a very good graveyard scene, starting off composed but soon faltering into silent tears as she recalld her father's promises just before segueing into Wishing. It was sung mostly straight, not a lot of ups and downs in the emotions, but her voice did tremble a bit when she got to the, "No more memories, no more silent tears" lyric, and ended it looking physically drained, which put her in the perfect position for the Phantom to step in with his hypno mumbo-jumbo.

I sort of was on the fence about Celinde's reaction at the top of "Wandering Child." When Christine stopped and heard the Phantom's voice, Celinde had sort of this, "*beep* this/Not again" body language, as if she was aware of who this was and was too exhausted o keep resisting anymore. It seemed a bit extreme but at the same time, sort of felt right in a weird sort of way for her interpretation. And hey! I forgot there was a trio here (I believe this was my first time seeing the graveyard trio performed live ever).

Of the difference between London and the US productions, there's one thing I'll say for sure: the US productions are certainly a lot more paranoid about potentially injuring their performers.

MotN catch?
US: Nope, might throw the lead actor's back out.
London: HELL YES!

Graveyard fireballs?
US: Okay, but shoot them sideways into the wings.
London: Aim DIRECTLY at your co-stars.

Before the Premiere:
Best part of this scene? Nadaam's deadpan delivery of "Idiot" to the marksman. It was like the posh translation of, "Da fuq dude?" and got a well-deserved laugh from the audience.

London's DJT is definitely feels more lurid in its choreography than its US counterpart, especially with Carlotta backed up against Passarino and both sort of grinding their hips suggestively to the lyric, "tangled in the winding sheets." Meg also crooked a finger at Passarino before twirling and running off, to which he got up and started to follow after her with hands reaching out in what I'm going to call a Trump-like manner.

Point of No Return:
No table dancing (thank God), but London's PonR does push the envelope, nonetheless. It's basically the same choreography you see in the RAH 25th Anniversary, although Karimloo and Boggess were extremely tame in comparison (like they were toning things down for 8pm broadcast television). Here, Celinde gave a decent amount of apple!ponr – running the apple down her cheek with a sensual expression on her face as she sat on the bench and later her half-lidded eyes looking out at the audience as she slowly brought the apple to her open mouth before the Phantom snatched it out of her hand (she only did that last one at the Saturday matinee, though – and for that I'm glad because I have enough Catholic guilt as it is, thank you very much). But the most scandalous moment here had to be when the Phantom joined Christine on the bench. This moment used to be infamous in London for the "grab" the Phantom did – but, as in the RAH performance, that wasn't done here. Instead, when Christine was sitting, her weight shifted to her right so that her left leg was fully extended to one side with her hand resting on her knee, Ben took a seat next to her and when he placed his hand over hers, he picked it up and planted them on her inner thigh (and I don't mean he subtly slid them over – this was a big, obvious movement up and off her knee and then back down into her skirt) before guiding it up her hip and torso until she suddenly pulled away in surprise and stood up.

Once Christine got her bearings, so to speak, Celinde sang her portion of the song very aggressively, the confidence she projected making her Aminta pretty much Don Juan's equal in power that gave the scene a more interesting dynamic. She did a couple of showy skirt swishes and a full 360 spin at one point that I thought was a little too over-the-top, but other than that, everything else worked fine. I also liked how she cried out, "NO!" when she realized it was the Phantom she was onstage with and tried to run off only to be held fast by her wrists, finally wrenching them free when they reached center stage. Once unmasked, the Phantom was shocked, of course, but Ben portrayed it through heavy, ragged breaths and erratic looks around him rather than the stunned silence many other Phantoms I've seen do.

Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer:
More differences between the US and London productions: London Christines don’t have a cloak thrown over her in this scene and US Phantoms don't yank Christine up by the arm (and even grabbed her by the hair at one point) and throw her back down during his ranting and raving.

Final Lair:
Just as in the First Lair, both Ben's Phantom and Celinde's Christine seemed to be of relatively equal power. While Ben stumbled back at Christine's verbal assault at the start of the scene, Celinde did the same when the Phantom lashed back at her. And with his line, "the joys of the flesh," Ben stepped toward Christine with his hands reaching out at her – causing her to back away quickly which makes him freeze, his expression changing to that of understanding the inappropriateness of his actions and then backing down, his head lowered slightly as if to reassure her that he was sorry for his impulsiveness. Ben's overall performance here was pretty classic, incorporating things like giggling to himself when Raoul demanded he free Christine while he's impotently blocked behind the portcullis and verging on tears when he cried out, "Make your choice!" that I've seen Phantoms over the past twenty years use to great effect.

I've always enjoyed when Raouls really show frustration/desperation when they arrive, probably because I've seen a few who seem WAY too casual about the whole situation. Nadim had the right amount of heightened emotion in his voice, and he mimed trying to lift the portcullis with his bare hands to try to get inside and even did an action roll under it when the Phantom allowed him in. During the kiss, he even struggled in the noose and clearly did not want to watch his fiancée kissing this man who he felt was a clear and dangerous threat.

Everything post-kiss was interesting, particularly in how Celinde brought a few new twists to it. When the Phantom freed Raoul, Nadim fell to the ground but, unlike many other Raouls who almost immediately pull the Punjab lasso off and try to get up, he did not – instead just laying there as Celinde rushed to kneel over him. They remained there for the Ben's next few lines, but when they did finally got to their feet, Raoul seemed very agreeable to leaving as the Phantom told them to, but Celinde's Christine held her ground when he moved to get them out. He tugged at her a second time, almost trying to pull her along with him but she refused to leave, defiantly saying, "Wait!" and never taking her eyes off the Phantom. She only relented when Ben turned and chased them out, screaming before falling to his hands and knees once he was all alone. When she returned and held out the Phantom's ring, Ben took her hand as he sang, "Christine I love you…" and after a quiet moment, she placed the ring in his palm, closed his fingers over it and then softly kissed his hand before leaving.

Curtain call ended with ushers passing out bottles of champagne to each row in the audience for us to fill our previously distributed champagne glasses while we waited for the 30th Anniversary Act 3 special presentation to begin. It took awhile, so there was a lot of photos and chatting until the Anniversary video abruptly and without announcement came up on a big video projection screen onstage. It was for the most part the same video as I remember from the Broadway 25th Anniversary performance, and by now we've all seen the excerpts of the special numbers they did. I will say that AIAoY featuring Michael Ball and ALW then segueing to include Celinde and later Nadim was hilarious to watch unfold, and having Sierra Boggess perform "Wishing" in French was a lovely and bittersweet consolation prize for those of us who upset about the disaster that abruptly cancelled the Paris production. The multi-Phantom PotO number was slightly improved by having two Christines, but it still felt a bit haphazard since the Paris Phantom, Gardar Thor Cortez, happened to be one of the Phantoms and he wasn't even introduced (the only clue for the audience as to who he was was probably the couple of lines both he and Sierra sang in French). Having members of the original London cast appear to take a bow was also much appreciated. Sarah Brightman was on tour I believe, so didn't make an appearance, Michael Crawford's appearance again was a silent one, and Hal Prince was sadly nowhere to be seen (although he was mentioned by name at one point), but they were still represented well. The grand finale itself, with the entire ensemble (multiple ensembles, it seemed) coming out and singing Masquerade was something of a letdown – not really building to anything in particular.

All in all, I thought it was a great show with great energy coming from everyone onstage. And finally seeing the show in London was like a fresh jolt of energy for me as a phan. Happy 30th Anniversary, Phantom London – may you haunt the West End for many years to come.

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Post  NightRachel Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:12 pm

Welcome back to the forum, Raphael! Very Happy

Thanks for sharing your detailed review of the show -- I enjoyed reading it! I was lucky enough to travel to London in April 2013 to see Phantom there, and it was wonderful! Though I'm a bit jealous that you got to attend the London 30th. I was able to watch video of the special Curtain Call performances on the POTO Facebook page. Smile And what happened to the Paris production sucks big time! Crying or Very sad Now we don't know when they'll be able to mount that French Phantom production, as they announced the Mogador Theater is booked for like the next 2 yrs at least. Well, like you said, at least getting to see the London 30th was a really nice consolation prize. Smile And, wow -- it was your 50th time seeing POTO overall -- that's awesome! Congrats on that milestone! Very Happy

As for the French POTO production...maybe they can mount it in Montreal, Quebec, in the meantime (like they had originally planned on doing back in the 90s)? If they did, it would be much easier (and cheaper) for me to get to Canada than France to see it. Cool

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Post  Raphael Sat Jan 07, 2017 5:32 pm

Getting to attend the 30th Anniversary was pure luck - my friends and I hadn't anticipated doing so since tickets were not available to the public until practically the last-minute. And yeah, the untimely cancellation of the Paris production was kind of heartbreaking. Seeing the show in Paris just up the street from the Opera Garnier would have been absolutely perfect.

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Phantom London 30th Anniversary: Forster/Schoenmaker/Naaman – 10 October 2016 Empty Re: Phantom London 30th Anniversary: Forster/Schoenmaker/Naaman – 10 October 2016

Post  NightRachel Sat Jan 07, 2017 6:44 pm

Raphael wrote:Getting to attend the 30th Anniversary was pure luck - my friends and I hadn't anticipated doing so since tickets were not available to the public until practically the last-minute. And yeah, the untimely cancellation of the Paris production was kind of heartbreaking. Seeing the show in Paris just up the street from the Opera Garnier would have been absolutely perfect.

Well, then I'd say you & your friends had some great luck in London! Very Happy

Oh yes, I'm sure it was such a letdown re: the Paris POTO production cancellation. In a way I'm glad I hadn't purchased tickets for it...I would've been doubly disappointed. And yeah, the location of the production in relation to the actual Opera House was too perfect! Well, I'm holding out hope that *one day* a French POTO production will happen (in France or Canada) just would've been so nice if it could've happened for POTO's 30th anniversary! Rolling Eyes

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Phantom London 30th Anniversary: Forster/Schoenmaker/Naaman – 10 October 2016 Empty Re: Phantom London 30th Anniversary: Forster/Schoenmaker/Naaman – 10 October 2016

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