There aren’t many composers as prolific on the musical scene as Baron Andrew Lloyd Webber, a household name across the globe for music compositions from productions such as Cats, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita … the list goes on.
There isn’t a doubt his most successful and critically acclaimed masterpiece is The Phantom of the Opera. Premiering in the West End in 1986, the production has been bestowed with a myriad of awards, and recently celebrated its 10,000th Broadway performance. And for 27 years this transcendent musical has captivated the awe and prestige of millions around the world.
Matt Byrne Media are the second amateur theatre company in Australia to perform the Phantom. With the lucratively ambitious Matt Byrne at the helm, nothing held back this tidal wave of talent, enthusiasm and ambition. Byrne is in a word, brave.
An amateur production of such a widely known production opens the floodgates to nit-picking from fanatics and musical aficionados but the principal cast, led by Michael Bates and Ellonye Keniry as the Phantom and Christine Daaé respectively, are gloriously talented. Bates presents a fresh interpretation of the troubled and enigmatic ‘Opera Ghost’, with a booming and powerful set of lungs that have no trouble belting out tear-jerking, emotional renditions. Bates’ ability to make the audience empathise with the trials and tribulations he experiences on stage is exemplary. Keniry’s voice is angelic and pure, and does a marvellous job at portraying the love-torn Daaé.
Absolute standouts were Dione Baker as the boisterous upstart Carlotta Guidicelli, and the superb David Gauci as the larger-than-life Ubaldo Piangi, whose operatic prowess and comedic timing could fill a show alone. Dirk Strachan was a natural as Monsieur Reyer/Don Attilio.
Set design and costumes (Brenton Staples and Nerissa Saville respectively), breathtaking. I shudder to think how much money was spent hiring such remarkable props and pieces. Very little disbelief had to be suspended for the audience to feel as though they were in 19th century France.
Unfortunately some clunky scene changes and awkward timing of stage crew rearranging props between scenes sometimes disturbed the flow. The sound levels overall were a little soft, and even sitting in the middle of the theatre it was at times a little difficult to hear the quieter notes. Nonetheless, the strength of the talent on stage powered through and the minor glitches didn’t deter much from the production and could most likely be attributed to opening night jitters.
A magical and awe-inspiring production that all Phantom lovers must see, along with those fond of the age-old tale of love destined for heartbreak.
Reviewed by Nathan Giaccio
Venue: Arts Theatre, 53 Angas Street Adelaide
Arts Theatre Season: 4-13 July
Venue: Shedley Theatre, 10 Playford Boulevard, Elizabeth
Shedley Season: 18-27 July
Duration: 3 hours
Tickets: $31.00 – $41.00
Bookings: Matt Byrne Media, BASS (131 246), VenueTix (8225 8888)
Photo Credit: Matt Byrne Media