The phantom of the ballet

Review by Paul Nelson

It is getting near to the time when Debbie McGee started to think of presenting a season of her ballets and alternating them throughout the run.

The company, Ballet Imaginaire, entirely of her own making, is getting to be noticeably excellent, and although small by Russian or Sadlers Wells standards the ingenuity and huge amount of talent among the dancers makes a very worthwhile evening.

For her newest offering, she has chosen a very dramatic story and adapted the well-known Phantom of the Opera to a pure dance form.

Her choreography, not designed to be easy, is handled very well by the company and makes a thrilling evening in the theatre. The story has been slightly altered in that when the Phantom finally loses his control over Christine to her lover, Raoul, and having seemingly disappeared into thin air, the wedding celebrations are brought to a dramatic standstill by the Phantom's brief return to exact a terrifying revenge on his love rival.

Music for the piece has been chosen from the works of Khachaturian, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, Bardalamenti, Leonard Bernstein and Trevor Daniels.

Parts of the Bernstein score for Candide are particularly well suited to ballet, and as the plot now demands that the Phantom is prevented from being a dancer because of his disfigurement and is centred around a ballet company, scope is allowed for scenes from Swan Lake to be included, which adds truth to the story.

There is a lot of opportunity for amusing moments during the evening, and I was forced to laugh aloud at some of the more audacious. The excerpts from Swan Lake
give the principals excellent opportunities and the dance of the cygnets is presented in a particularly charming and expert manner.

There still remains however, the ability of the story to chill, and particularly in Act Two, in the lair of the Phantom, when he offers the terrified Christine a rose, the creatures of this underworld appear together like some horrid Hydra.

Here there is an excellently staged sword fight between Raoul and the Phantom which was so exciting I realised I was almost cracking my knuckles with tension.

The foyer of the Paris Opera House, the setting for the Third Act, brought gasps and spontaneous applause from the audience. It looked magnificent and was a suitable backdrop for the divertissements of the wedding celebrations. Here, not for the first time, the company managed to look at least three times its size, even giving vent to a can-can.

The principals, Matthew Powell (Phantom), Liliana-Roberta Durlai (Christine) and Christopher Lee Wright (Raoul), all made the most of the performance, but the evening truly belongs to Debbie McGee, who, as Artistic Director and Choreographer, paraded her company with justifiable pride.

Phantom The Ballet, presented by Ballet Imaginaire. Principals: Matthew Powell, The Phantom; Liliana-Roberta Durlai, Christine; Christopher Lee Wright, Raoul; Emma Lister, Carlotta; Greet Boterman, Carlotta's Maid; Lorena Fernandez Sayez, Ballet Mistress; Eoin Griffin, Monsieur Oui; Simon Brading, Monsieur Non; Jonathan Keytes, Prince in Swan Lake.
Designer and Special Effects, Paul Daniels; Music Associate, Trevor Daniels; Choreographer and Artistic Director, Debbie McGee.