Though COVID cruelly forced the theatres to close, The Phantom Of The Opera has returned to the West End to celebrate its 35th anniversary. The Phantom Of The Opera is full of the shock of a twisted romance, thrill of the booming organs that send chills of awe and the gasp of the rising chandelier. For the theatre lovers and ‘The Phantom’ regulars, this revival is brings new life to the show- for a new generation- and will inspire adoration for this iconic musical and its new depth to the characters.

Adapted from the original novel by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom Of The Opera stars a mysterious and dangerous love triangle between Christine Daae and her music teacher, her Angel of Music, the Phantom of the opera, who haunts the theatre. However, when Raoul Vicomte de Chagny and Christine fall in love the Phantom will stop at nothing to ensure his protégé will only sing for him, resulting in many ‘accidents’, especially when the managers interfere with his running of the theatre.

“Perhaps we may frighten away the ghost of so many years ago with a little illumination!”- the Auctioneer, The Phantom of The Opera

I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation for these words- the cue for the Overture and the first glance of the new chandelier for the 35th anniversary production. The enormous flash of the overture made my heart race as the orchestra conducted this dramatic and emotional crescendo of music with the chandelier rising and the theatre transforming gold, as you are transported to 1880s Paris. The new chandelier looks breath taking, dazzling crystals with a new modern flare- it feels bigger, grander, a showpiece at the top of the theatre, for me, surpassing the original chandelier of 1986 which itself contained over 6000 beads. What surprised me was the chandelier’s electric lights crashing and sparking in time to the music’s key blasts that created this flashing grandeur.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is the genius behind the ‘Music Of The Night’ of The Phantom Of The Opera. Many reviewers have criticize the music of the reduced orchestra as being flat (compared to the power of what it used to be) and if I thought the music was mesmerising now I can only imagine the sound of the full orchestra. However, Simon Lee’s orchestra did the best to try maintain ‘Phantom’s’ stunning music with such limited numbers and Mick Potter’s and his sound team still continue to create the haunting atmosphere and the Phantom’s strange misdirection.

The humour of The Phantom Of The Opera has always been present in this gothic romance but here this once more subtle and hidden element has been reworked to audible laughter, thanks mainly to the efforts of the brilliant director Seth Skylar-Heyn and the equally talent ensemble. Each of the ensemble characters felt truly alive; whose new characterisation and comedy could even draw you away from the main action to present intricate complex stories of their own; interwoven with the story telling of their individual costumes.

What appeals everyone to come watch this revival of this iconic story is the talented cast who each shine, equal and above, to some of the best actors who have performed the roles.

I had the inspiring opportunity to interview Elle Young who is currently playing Meg Giry, she performs in the ballet chorus and is the closest friend of Christine Daae, in The Phantom Of The Opera 35th anniversary. Elle explained that she loves the music and how the show is different every day. She enjoys working with her colleagues who she has learnt so much from. Elle has such a sweet and beautiful soprano voice that is so soft and magical that it easily soars in the best rendition of  the complicated “Notes” I have ever heard. She is also such a talented and graceful ballet dancer. I loved her adaptation of Meg Giry bringing innocence and young life; developing from this curious mouse to venturing down to the Phantom’s lair.

Carlotta is the “Prima Donna” of The Phantom Of The Opera. The young energy and hilarious facial expressions Saori Oda brought, created such sass to Carlotta with the perfect pretentious attitude that the role desperately needed for the audience to fall in love with this brilliant diva.  Created from her ingenious addition of her excellently articulated overexaggerated rolling of the ‘R’s during the powerful operatic notes she effortlessly projects.

Rhys Whitfield is truly the prefect Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny. In “All I Ask Of You” he is sweet and playful with Christine whilst also having this protective and romantic presence that perfectly contrasts the obsessive seductive protection of the Phantom. In the changed choreography ,there is emphasise on Raoul actually comforting Christine after she cries, he is compassionate and trusting of her even when he is wary of her story. Rhys projects that childhood romance, sweetheart chemistry, that makes the audience instantly fall in love with him. This brilliant emotive love toward Christine is paired with Rhys inspiring voice in “Wandering Child” where he could proudly hold his own vocal power and passion in the vocal trio.

Lucy St Louis has brought new life and has redefined the character of Christine which makes her instantly standout among the cast. After I interviewed Lucy, she conveyed the feminism and journey she wanted to develop in Christine.

In the “Past The Point Of No Return” the scene’s choreography has changed to see Christine take charge and stand against the Phantom to decide his fate rather than hers, developing from her innocence in “Angel of Music” and her adorable giggle in “All I Ask Of You” for childhood romance with Raoul. In the final scene she finally confronts the Phantom for his horrific manipulation of her and her voice, to then show the true compassion for the Phantom as he lets her go.

Not only this, Lucy St Louis has such a unique skill to her enchantingly beautiful and extremely emotive voice, where her sweet and soft vocals effortlessly glide into this sudden power of a passionate controlled belt with her elegant sustained vibrato and clear voice that mesmerises. Her final note of the theme was so clear and soft it was the angel the Phantom hears. Lucy is also one of the few Christine to join the ballet dancers ‘en pointe’ another of her incredible dedication and talent to the role of Christine.

Killian Donnelly is the 35th anniversary’s Phantom and he was hauntingly astounding. His Phantom knows his power and control over Christine how to manipulate her with his seductive presence in the “Music Of Night”. Killian’s Phantom holds himself upright and walks with control. He entrances with his incredible controlled voice with the seamless sustained strong vibrato to the sudden soft operatic notes of “Soar”. In the Final Lair, I especially admired the detail of him tapping on his throne and the line “You try my patience” which further showcases his control over his theatre. Then, in his lair, the Phantom is desperate, vulnerable compared to the previous power he had which emotes greater sympathy for Killian Donnelly’s Phantom.

The cast alone are enough to inspire why everyone must come and delight in this reimagined twisted romance with the grandeur and haunting, dramatic, romantic soul of the music, acting and design in The Phantom Of The Opera’s 35th anniversary. Let the opera begin! Let The Phantom Of The Opera enchant for another 35 years!