It’s fantastic, fabulous and phantasmagorical! From the eerily flickering lights that greet you outside Her Majesty’s Theatre to the last, glorious curtain call, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-awaited new musical, Phantom of the Opera, is a triumph.
The special effects are among the most spectacular ever seen in the West End.
The music is very bit as memorable as one would expect from the man who wrote Evita, Starlight Express and the rest. But most of all, the show belongs to Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford, who soar and swoop through their hugely demanding roles like eagles.
After all the well-publicised false starts and back-biting, Lloyd Webber has created a musical which deserves to be around well into the next decade.
The story is based closely on the original novel of 1911 – unlike most of the Phantom of the Opera films which have been made over the years.
Michael Carwford’s Phantom hides his hideously disfigured face by skulking in the stage caverns and pools deep beneath the Paris opera.
His passion for music is the only thing which gives his life meaning until he becomes obsessed by Sarah Brightman’s Christine – a young opera singer whose beauty is matched only by the purity of her voice. He coaches her in secret while visiting dreadful catastrophes on anyone who refuses to advance her career.
A hanged scene shifter is suddenly hideously dropped on to the stage in the middle of a performance. A vast crystal chandelier crashes on to the audience.
As the phantom becomes more fiendish so Christine becomes increasingly mixed in her feelings towards him.
A dreadful climax is fast approaching.
The eerie sets of the unfolding drama – great stages filled with mist and shining candles – are interspersed with all the colour and spectacle of the operas being prepared and presented at the theatre.
Despite all the "ghost train" theatricals the greatest thrills of the show come from Michael Crawford.
He not only sings superbly but also captures the torment of the Phantom perfectly.
If you only see one show this year, make sure it is this one!
John Blake, Daily Mirror, 10th October 1986