Review: The Phantom of the Opera with Luke McCall (Phantom u/s)

Ben Lewis as the Phantom and Kelly Mathieson as Christine
RATING: ★★★★★

As a treat for Easter weekend, my friend Rhiannon and I went to see The Phantom of the Opera here in London. I'd seen the show twice before on Broadway, but never in the West End and the production at Her Majesty's Theatre is absolutely beautiful. It's one of the shows that first made me fall in love with theatre and seeing it again reminded me of why it's such a classic.

For anyone who doesn't know, The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a young orphaned girl named Christine who is in the ballet corps of the Paris opera house.  She is receiving voice lessons from who she believes to be her "Angel of Music" sent to her by her father. This mysterious man is actually the supposed ghost who haunts the opera house, demanding his salary and adherence to his artistic input on all their productions. When Christine's childhood sweetheart Raoul becomes the opera house's new patron, things become rather complicated for her as she is thrust into the spotlight and into a love triangle between these two men.

I can only imagine what the reaction to Phantom's sets must have been when it first premiered in the 1980s because they are still stunning today. I have to admit that the chandelier rising in the opening scene made me gasp out loud and the "Masquerade" staircase is beautiful and perfectly evokes the real Paris opera house, which I visited last month. The costumes are equally beautiful; my personal favorite is Christine's "Wishing" dress.

The ensemble during "Masquerade"
While it's easy to view the show as a love story or even as centering around the dangerous but charismatic Phantom, seeing it this time made me realize that it's in many ways a coming of age story. I was struck by this tale of a young woman who has to fight to find her own voice and have a say in what's happening to her as multiple men attempt to manipulate her to their own purposes. (I cried during "Wandering Child" because I was so angry on her behalf!)

Georgia Ware is lovely as Christine's best friend, the promising dancer Meg Giry. Her dancing was beautiful (those lines!) and her voice was great as well. We saw the understudy for Carlotta, the opera's prima donna, Una Reynolds, who absolutely smashed what is a very difficult role. Her voice is perfect for this operatic part.

I thought Jeremy Taylor is a somewhat bland Raoul, though whether that's due to him or the direction is hard to say. Of course, Raoul is my favorite character, so I'm a bit picky but while Taylor's voice is lovely and well suited to the role, I feel that his Raoul is a bit lackluster and bland in terms of any character development.

Ben Lewis as the Phantom and Kelly Mathieson as Christine
We saw the second cover Phantom, Luke McCall, who is brilliant in the role. He's quite young to be playing the Phantom, I believe, but he is absolutely up to the task. In fact, he almost won me over to the Phantom's side! (And I am always one to point out that the Phantom's love for Christine isn't exactly healthy.)

Vocally, he reminded me of a mix between Ramin Karimloo and John Owen Jones (yes, an ideal Phantom) and his acting was amazing as well. While he was very dignified and sophisticated even in the first act, he really shone in the second act when his Phantom fell completely apart in the "Final Lair". I was legitimately a bit afraid of him, which is something I always consider a mark of an actor who understands the character!

Of course, the star of the show for me was Kelly Mathieson as Christine Daaé. I can't believe that it's her West End debut because she is absolutely perfect for the role. Her voice is effortlessly beautiful and she easily sings Christine's more tricky parts. (The role is undeniably very demanding.) However, what I appreciate most is that she brings across a real character arc. I love how playful her Christine is; it seems she takes the mask off the Phantom in "I Remember..." in a ploy to gain his attention, an angle I'd never seen played before.

If you've not seen the show before (or even if you have), the current cast of The Phantom of the Opera is well worth taking a visit to see. I may have to plan a return trip later this year to see Mathieson's Christine again and try to catch the principle Ben Lewis (who I've watched many times in the filmed Australian production of Love Never Dies) as the Phantom.

You can also watch my video review on my YouTube channel:

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

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