Hippodrome audiences to get a fresh look at the Phantom
Even the greatest show on earth, it seems, needs a refresh once in a generation. And so it is that The Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber's eye-wateringly successful musical, returns to the Bristol Hippodrome this spring promising both change and continuity.
Phantom, which made its debut at Her Majesty's Theatre, London, back in the autumn of 1986, justly labels itself "the most successful entertainment project in history". Seen by 130 million people across 27 countries, the show has grossed over £3.2 billion in its performance history – more than any other film or stage play. Well over 1,000 performances later, it still plays at Her Majesty's to this day, making it the second longest-running West End musical (after Les Misérables, which opened exactly a year earlier).
The Phantom that heads out on a UK tour this spring – the Hippodrome gets the third date on the tour, after stops in Plymouth and Manchester – has been given a substantial makeover by producer Cameron Mackintosh, including new choreography, set design and staging – although Lloyd Webber's music, Charles Hart's lyrics and Maria Björnson's celebrated costumes all remain intact. John Owen-Jones, last seen as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, plays the titular ghoul, and Katie Hall (Les Mis' Cosette) the beautiful soprano who becomes the object of his obsession.
A brief synopsis, then: we're in Paris, 1881, and our young heroine, Christine Daaé, is a Swedish chorus girl at the world-famous Opera. When the Opera's lead diva Carlotta storms out in alarm after a piece of scenery unexpectedly collapses (the work, it is whispered, of the Opera's resident phantom), Christine is thrust into the limelight – and makes a triumphant debut. Her success, we learn, is the work of the mysterious phantom, who lives in a subterranean lair beneath the building and who has chosen Christine to sing his music.
Lloydbottoms TaxApp – tax rates, tips and calculators at your...View details
Our App will provide you with useful tax tools and information via your mobile device (iOS and Android)
featuring Tax tips, Tax calculators, Tax rates tables, Hot topics and more
Contact: 0117 244 3590
Valid until: Saturday, April 05 2014
That isn't all, though – the ghoul also conceives a fierce passion for the beautiful heroine, leading him into a struggle with her betrothed, the Opera's patron Raoul, which culminates in him torching an entire cemetery. Eventually the Phantom achieves his dream, singing alongside Christine in an opera of his own composition – but there is still more heartache, not to mention a spectacular disappearance, waiting in the wings.
It all makes for some of the most gripping drama ever put on stage – and a worthy headline performance for the Hippodrome's 100th year. "We promised Bristol we'd unveil something big for our centenary year, and we're delighted that Cameron Mackintosh is bringing his spectacular new production to town," says Christiaan de Villiers, the theatre's general manager. "It has been over 12 years since the original production wowed local audiences, and we are sure that this is the news Bristol has been waiting for."
Sarah Milne, who has worked at the Hippodrome for more than 25 years, is a devoted Phantom fan, having seen the original show dozens of times – including, she admits, several performances during that last Hippodrome run back in 1999. And she has this advice for anyone who hasn't seen the show – and for committed fans wondering what to expect from the refresh. "If you haven't seen it before, you simply don't know what you are missing. And if you have seen it, I can say with hand on heart that you won't miss anything at all from the old version. The script, music and costumes are unchanged – the only changes are to the staging, set design and lighting. I can honestly say that they only enhance the show.
"You know that Cameron Mackintosh simply wouldn't have brought out this new version if it didn't improve upon the original. The design and look are once again absolutely spectacular. And when you see it up on stage in our beautiful, 100-year-old theatre, it will look just stunning."