How does ‘Phantom of the Opera’ hold up in 2019?

Photos by Neal Corpus

 

The past week has been a dive into nostalgia, what with the Jonas Brothers reuniting, Sky Ferreira announcing new music, and Elle Magazine publishing a Taylor Swift-penned essay. It’s basically 2013 all over again, and I’m not complaining. So it was only fitting that I catch the gala night of The Phantom of the Opera, first staged in Manila six years ago.

2013 was the year I watched The Phantom of the Opera for the first time ever. As a newbie theater goer, I remember getting lost in the story, transported to a 19th century Paris opera house. Though our seats were high up on the balcony, I exited the theater blown away by the the whole spectacle.

Now that the Andrew Lloyd Weber masterpiece is back in Manila for another limited run, I worried that the grandiose memories I had of the musical would be spoiled after seeing it again as an adult. And who can blame me? In this Internet age of callout culture and #MeToo, where even the fictional TV characters are picked apart (see: Penn Badgley’s Joe in You), Phantom doesn’t stand a chance. Add to my recent realization that women deserve more than the emotionally manipulative men in this world, and you can imagine how iffy I was going into the theater this time around.

Set in 19th century Paris, the show revolves around the Paris Opera and its performers, one of which is soprano Christine Daaé. Christine becomes the object of obsession of the disfigured musical genius living underneath the opera house.

As a character, the Phantom can be considered a textbook sociopath — dangerously perpetuating that “if I do things for you you should be grateful and love me back” narrative. Christine was obviously scared of him, and yet he continued to harass her and her peers. By the end of the first act, my worries were confirmed: this wasn’t the tragic romance that I remembered.  

Unable to reconcile my current feelings with my magical first Phantom experience, I messaged my friend (a huge fan) to ask her why she loves the production. She replied right away, in three paragraphs that pretty much hit it on the spot: “Well you can say that the best thing about Phantom is the production of it. Conceptually, it ties together so many strong elements that it makes up for the relatively weak story.”

Phantom truly embodies everything you look for in a major musical — stellar production design (the iconic chandelier drop scene already makes it so worth it), colorful and intricately designed costumes, powerhouse vocals, and a moving musical score.

Since the story can’t be changed, my friend also mentioned that actors play a huge role in a successful staging of Phantom. It was the second time actor Jonathan Roxmouth performed as the Phantom in Manila, and I found his intensity to be the perfect match for Meghan Picerno’s innocent and charming Christine. Jonathan’s spellbinding vocals almost made me forget how much of a jerk his character is.  

Of course, the music of Andrew Lloyd Weber was the highlight of the whole night. I’m still reeling from the opening bars to The Phantom of the Opera, when the Phantom brings Christine to his subterranean labyrinth. Even more amazing is how they pulled off the bridge to the boat sequence.

I guess that’s the key to enjoying Phantom: lose yourself in the production rather than looking solely at the plot. And it is in this aspect that the Manila leg of the international tour didn’t disappoint. From the grand musical numbers to the seamless set transitions, they really know how to put on a show. I mean, Masquerade is a number that you simply can’t get tired of.

After getting over the initial doubts with regards to the story, I’m happy to report that the sparkle and grandeur of the production continues to stay with me, seven years later. And with that, I’ll be looking forward to seeing what the rumored production of Phantom sequel Love Never Dies brings to the table.

 

 

The Phantom of the Opera runs at the Theater at Solaire until March 31. For tickets, visit ticketworld.com.ph.

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