by Darryl Goh
The Phantom of the Opera has just made its way to our Little Red Dot, its second stop of a world-wide tour. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece continues to shatter expectations, more than 30 years after its inception.
My first introduction to The Phantom of Opera was a rather unique one; through my secondary school CCA, choir. Apart from remembering how difficult it was to nail the harmonies, the score was dark yet riveting, which whet my appetite for all things Phantom. Although I watched the 2004 film, which helped me to understand the plot better, my dream was to eventually watch the musical.
This dream was realised this year at the Marina Bay Sands Theatre, where I was at the edge of my seat for much of the performance, transfixed on the melodrama and brilliance of the production. Here is what I took home from ‘God’s gift to musical theatre’, as described by The Times publication.
In my opinion, no other musical captivates audiences from the get-go quite like The Phantom of Opera. From the chandelier’s blinding reveal, coupled with the haunting Phantom theme in the Overture, I knew I was in for something spectacular.
Despite being aware of the plot (as with the majority of the audience, presumably), the musical opened a new dimension for my appreciation of the love triangle relationship between the Phantom, Christine and Raoul. This was something which was unattainable in the movie; to be fully immersed in a living body of work, full of raw emotion and talent. The movie may be able to splurge on visual effects, but it can never replicate the musical experience, where the tension is palpable and unapologetic, making your heart ache for the characters, particularly the Phantom.
This is also testament to the musical’s cast, wonderfully channelling the spirits of their characters and delivering their lines with emotional weight.
Brilliant Set Design
My parents watched the musical in Broadway during their honeymoon, and can still vividly recall some scenes from The Phantom of the Opera in great detail. They explained how stunning it was when the Phantom brought Christine to his underground lair for the first time. In Singapore, I saw nothing short of what they described: from ‘floating’ stairs to candles in ornate holders to a boat in a sea of mist. I too would remember this unforgettable moment for a long time to come.
Colourful, elaborate costumes donned by the cast transports us back to 19th century, and is most impressive in the masquerade ball sequence (some were wearing suits on one side of their body and dress gowns on the other). Even when the Phantom graces the ball with his presence, he changes out of his trademark black and white get-up into the Red Death.
The Music (Duh!)
I think I can never grow tired of the music from The Phantom of the Opera. There are so many layers behind the most iconic songs, such as Music of the Night and Angel of Music. Take Angel of Music – the sweet lyrics and melody are twisted in the musical’s context; there is just so much to unpack and it only reveals the musical genius of the Phantom.
Light-hearted moments are also shared through song, from the hilarious revelation of the Phantom’s demands and Carlotta’s tantrum in Notes/Prima Donna. But do not misinterpret this piece as representative of the musical as a light-hearted affair; The Phantom of the Opera is filled with dark, unsettling scores to bring the enigmatic Phantom and the plot to life.
No amount of words can describe my experience at The Phantom of Opera. I can only tell you to catch it and truly experience the music of the night.
The Phantom of the Opera is currently playing until 8 June 2019, at the Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands.