Phantom Of The Opera: 25th Anniversary Concert @ Royal Albert Hall

I cannot overemphasize how wonderful the experience of seeing a stage show in the cinema is. I bought my Yogen Fruz and went to watch the concert in jeans and a t-shirt, shortly after choosing my seat.

The house had more people than the 25th Anniversary Concert for Les Miserables last year, but was still more empty than full. I chalk that up to people preferring to go to the Saturday encore performance.

This concert was fully staged, but it didn't use the design by the late Maria Bjornson, instead opting for a design by Cameron Mackintosh to accommodate the nature of the event. Certain things were pared down- there was no elephant in the Hannibal scene, and the chandelier sparked rather than fell- but in many aspects the production was still more opulent and indulgent than the Broadway Across Canada tour I saw in Ottawa four years ago.

The costumes looked great with the close-ups, and I realized just how many costume changes there were. A girl in my group who works in costume and set design had relocated her jaw to the ground for the entire performance. I know understand the meaning of the phrase 'costume porn'.

The sound at Royal Albert was, as always, fantastic, the orchestrations were given extra colour by a huge orchestra that was thankfully not as brassy as some cast recordings (glares at Toronto Highlights). However, separate from the quality of the Hall's sound was the volume of the cinema, which was too loud! I had to move back about five rows for the second act. Luckily, the excessive volume of the cinema didn't blur the complexity of the orchestration or obscure the quality of the singers involved.

As a nod, or perhaps as consolation for the fact that they were in Love Never Dies, Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess played the Phantom and Christine.

Ramin Karimloo, who may be the best Phantom bar none, has declared that this is to be the last time he plays the role. As a farewell performance, he was nigh perfect. As a representation of 25 years of Phantom, I think he might have guaranteed another 25. His voice was in peak condition, with an appealing rock bent and a silky lower register that reminded me how extensive the role's range is. And though this was a concert (I have to keep reminding myself of the fact, though), the acting portion of his performance was totally committed. He has this role down to a fine art. I can see why he would be sick of it.

Sierra Boggess has been having a good few years; she's done Christine in both shows, Ariel in The Little Mermaid, she's been in Master Class with Tyne Daly, and it's expected that she'll return to Broadway as the second Mrs DeWinter in the premier full English production of Rebecca. In this concert, she made it tremendously clear that she deserves all the work that she's getting. Her voice was clear and gorgeous, without the imagined gravitas of some Christines. Her evolution from the shellshocked ballet girl to a woman who can make her own decisions was far better marked than usual.

My biggest disappointment going into this concert, I must admit, was that David Thaxton wasn't going to be Raoul. Once again I was deprived of the brilliance that is David Thaxton in an 80s megamusical. However, my disappointment evaporated when I found out Hadley Fraser would perform instead. Hadley Fraser of the bromance instigated with Ramin Karimloo from last year's concert of Les Miserables. Needless to say, they didn't have quite that chemistry this time around. :D Fraser sang wonderfully, and cut a fine figure in that suit. He had a sense of humour too, something rare in Raouls.

The rest of the cast was uniformly good, though for whatever reason Summer Strallen's Meg had some serious chemistry with Christine. Makes you wonder what those ballet girls were up to before the Angel of Music arrived. :D

At the end, Andrew Lloyd Webber appeared, thanked the creatives, remembered the deceased, and was otherwise supremely awkward. Then Colm Wilkinson, Peter Joback, Anthony Warlow, and John-Owen Jones came on and sang 'The Music of the Night'. I will single out Peter Joback; out of a quartet of fine, fine singers, he sucked.

Michael Crawford was there, but didn't sing.

Sarah Brightman (or his 'Angel of Music', as ALW called her. Gross) arrived and sang the title song with the accumulated Phantoms. I think she was lip-synching.

All in all, I had a huge adrenaline rush from watching this. I cannot wait until the 14th of November for the DVD and CD release so I can replicate the experience as soon as possible.


  1. In music of the Night It was Colm Wilkinson, Anthony Warlow, John Owen-Jones, and Peter Joback not Phillip Quast.

  2. Thanks for that. I had the programme in front of me and everything when I was writing this review.