Where: Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Grand Canal Square, Docklands, Dublin 2
Runs until August 4th
From its initial launch on London’s West End 25 years ago, Phantom quickly became one of the most popular musicals of all time. People are enthralled by the story of the disfigured man who lives beneath the Paris Opera House and trains young soprano Christine Daaé for success having fallen in love with her. However, when his ambitions for the stunning brunette become murderous and a rival for his affections appears on the scene in the shape of the handsome Raoul, it ultimately leads to his downfall.
Anyone who has seen it in its original home in London’s Her Majesty’s Theatre will have marvelled at the spectacle – particularly the scenes where the Phantom guides Christine through her dressing room mirror and into his cavernous home below the opera house and the iconic scene where the famous chandelier crashes down upon the audience (literally). That chandelier scene costs them a massive amount in insurance premiums (as you can imagine) but it is worth every penny. The effect is no less spectacular in the Broadway production with the Majestic Theatre having been similarly equipped to accommodate all the tricks and illusions required of a show like this.
I have been fortunate enough to see both those versions as well as some of the touring productions over the years (including in Dublin’s Point Depot some 14 odd years ago) so I had huge expectations of this production, starring John Owen-James as the Phantom and Katie Hall as Christine, which boasts “exciting new design and staging”.
This theatre is a far better size for a show like this than the Point was and the surroundings are classical enough to suit the tone of the show so when I walked in and saw the chandelier covered up and ready to go I was beyond excited. However, within a short time I found myself feeling that something was lacking and by the time it got to the iconic scene where Christine and the Phantom board his underground boat I realised that it was the brand spanking new set that was niggling me. This scene has been reduced to mere seconds on the boat, with most of it spent on a staircase as they descend. My reservations were not assuaged when the moment came for the famous chandelier crash. I sat there eagerly awaiting it and…nothing! They simply don’t do it in the touring production. I appreciate that it is probably an insurance nightmare but it is genuinely one of the highlights of the show for anyone who has ever seen it and for me it left this offering sorely lacking. The fact that it is an integral plot point makes its exclusion all the more ridiculous.
Owen-Jones and Hall do a fantastic job in the lead roles but the set is not a patch on the former touring sets, or indeed the permanent sets on Broadway and London and doesn’t appear to have the splendour patrons used to previously enjoy. Also, many of the effects and illusions have been pared back – again probably because it is a touring production. However, this is pretty inexcusable since any fans of this production are aware of what should be happening even if they have never seen it.
I did enjoy seeing this again however I felt this was a very diluted offering compared to the previous times I’d attended. It was sorely lacking in many of the elements that make the originals so thrilling and didn’t have the heart of previous productions I have seen – which was compounded by the set. If you have never seen this show in its London home you will enjoy this. If however you have witnessed it in it’s full grandeur you will leave this feeling glad you saw it but ultimately dissatisfied.
Wednesday matinee – €25, €35, €40 & €45.
Mon – Thurs evening – €40, €45, €50 & €55.
Fri evening & both Sat – €45, €50, €55 & €60
Concessions available Monday – Thursday. Groups 10+ – €5, 20+ – €6, 40+ – €7.Access patrons – €5. General concession (Seniors, students & Children) – €5.