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Lloyd Webber's Phantom continues to bewitch



Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

CONSIDERED by many to be Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's best, The Phantom of the Opera has certainly stood the test of time and is probably the most successful of his works.

Based on the novel by French author, Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera is first and foremost a love story. That it's set in the microcosmic world of the Paris Opera House almost a century ago, simply lends it an aura of timeless sophistication.

But it's a world that is about to be compromised by the tireless and menacing whims of the principal and eponymous protagonist, whose true nature remains a mystery - even in the final poignant scene, thereby shattering any foregone conclusions.

Act One, though, opens with a dress rehearsal for the opera 'Hannibal', but it very soon transpires that forces are afoot to dispense with leading lady, Carlotta Guidicelli, and replace her with an inexperienced member of the company, the young Christine Daae - the object of the Phantom's all-consuming love.

And there is nothing he will not do to further his cause, which makes for some unexpectedly droll moments, as well as some genuinely heart-stopping ones - the most memorable being the famous chandelier incident.

And matters are further complicated by Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, whose love for Christine is reciprocated, so adding the eternal triangle to the equation.

It's a haunting and strangely touching story, with Lloyd Webber's phantom coming across as a sort of Elephant Man who, despite his oftimes evil intent, evokes only pity.

Fear, although a factor, becomes of secondary consideration. For, contrary to expectation and maybe even intent, the scene in which he abducts Christine for the first time, and rows her across the lake to his lair in the labyrinth beneath the Opera House, is one of pure enchantment.

Sets are, in fact, sumptuous, as indeed are the costumes, making it one of the West End's most spectacular productions.

But like Les Miserables, Phantom is set entirely to music, which may not meet with everyone's approval. That said, some of the songs are already familiar and well-loved - All I Ask of You and Music of the Night were long ago hits for Michael Ball and Michael Crawford, respectively.

All this taken into consideration, it should then come as no surprise that The Phantom of the Opera has bewitched audiences for so long - as it surely will for many years to come.

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