SURELY Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ needs no introduction. It has recently become the longest-running show on Broadway and has been running for over 25 years in London’s West End. It has also spawned a blockbuster movie version, and is one of the best known scores of our time.
A brave move, all things considered, by Centre Stage Youth Productions to tackle the Youth Group version (although the show is pretty much the same as the current professional version, apart from a few softer lyrics in places). As a show, its adult themes of passionate love, obsession, loss and murder do not really lend themselves well to a youth group performance; however, the difficult material was generally handled with ease and expertise by this talented company.
Director Sam Quested had the daunting task of managing this massive show in a relatively small venue, and showed skill and commitment in his results. Musical Director Nigel Finch was again at the helm of an expert orchestra, and a committed backstage team were obviously working as hard as the actors on stage. Things weren’t perfect on the opening night, but that didn’t matter to the packed audience of enthusiastic family and friends.
There isn’t an easy role in this show, as most of the audience come with expectation, and overall the principal cast deliver confident and credible performances. Harry Butterwick as ‘Phantom’ has big shoes to fill in this well-known role; he works hard and delivers a confident turn. Ella Williams’ Christine was beautifully sung and impassioned. Kathleen Brenner’s Carlotta was funny, gloriously over the top and brilliantly sung, and Charlie Nicholas and Tom Chenhall stole the show several times as the theatre owners embroiled in the Phantom’s continued threats; these two guys were funny and well-acted.
Things were obviously still being ironed out on opening night, as there were several tentative moments with set, lighting and special effects that didn’t quite work out. The cast worked hard to overcome these where they could, and for such a young group of performers, I have nothing but praise for their resilience and commitment. To handle such an adult and complicated show at this level is admirable and also says something about the ambition and spirit of the local theatre scene.
The run is pretty much sold out now, as you would expect, but overall a great attempt at a complicated and difficult classic.