Phenomenal Phantom Provides Praise for Young People’s Talent
If anyone ever uses the word ‘amateur’ or ‘young person’ in a derogatory manner, I rightfully ignore them briefly before allowing them to lose a passionately-put debate, justified by shows like this. Lord Lloyd-Webber’s masterpiece, presented by Altrincham Garrick’s Young Theatre arm and directed by the incredibly talented young Joseph Meighan, is an absolute treat for anyone who has not able to see the show professionally or elsewhere. It is no surprise that this show has a pristine reputation for delivering a real mix of emotions every time, usually gaining a standing ovation from all who see it, and when performed by young people - all 21 or under - it is astonishing how they can put on a show that is better than the professional one, let alone being equal!
Many have speculated that the character of The Phantom takes on the persona of The Lord himself but when you see this version, lead by the wonderful Chris Wagstaff, it is clear that he is ideal for the part, having previously played the iconic role, along with that of Valjean in Les Miserables. By his side for the most part, in this production of just over 20 young actors, is the amazing Christine Daae (Jess Heaps) whose voice is lovely in tone and pitch. I say for the most part as she is side-tracked by old flame Raoul - now the Viconte de Chagny - whose charm and stunning voice is provided by Jacob Robson.
After opening the show with an auction being held at the Paris Opera House (Opera Popolare) since the detrimental events of time passed; including the collapse of a chandelier by an unidentifiable Opera Ghost, we are treated to the first of a selection of well-timed and lit effects in the form of a time-lapse to rehearsals for the theatre’s production of Hannibal, starring Prima Donna Soprano Carlotta Ciudicelli (Beatrice Marshall) and her right hand Tenor Ubaldo Piangi (Daniel Upchurch) whose voices are well matched and have such power and clarity, even with the French accents.
Jordan Pendleton portrays music maestro and conductor Monsieur Reyer with departing theatre owner Monsieur Lefevre, played by Ryan Clarke (also the Auctioneer) introducing new owners Monsieur’s Andre and Firmin (Dillon Burgess and James London) who, as their double-act personalities lend, both provide comedy throughout, particular reading the notes of from OG.
Observant members of the audience who read the programme will have spotted the variation in parts between these budding sparks whilst in training but one that surprises the most is that of Emily Yarwood who has just played the leading role of bubbly ball of energy Tracy Turblad in Hairspray, only to now play strict dance/ballet mistress and stalwart Madame Giry, mother of Christine’s best friend Meg (Megan Johnstone). Another cameo lurking backstage at the Paris Opera House is fly man (as in scene cloths not as in blue bottle) Joseph Buquet (Aidan Burgess) who endures a fatality.
Supporting the named parts is an ensemble (that’s French too) of elegance who action Kirsty Hooper’s outstanding choreography exemplarily (that’s not French though). The sound and look of the show was brilliant with ingenious adaptation of the set to make best use of the limited space on stage. Whilst I wasn’t keen on the hugeness and staticity of the steps - despite them being well used - and was not sure about the painting for the organ and the jerky movement of a moving head light during Music of the Night, the show was possibly the best version I have seen, slightly because of the fact I knew many within, impartially. The orchestra sounded great, under the directorship of Dan McDwyer.
Putting the decision of not performing it on Saturday aside, I have to comment and congratulate each and ever member of the cast, crew and production team involved with this show and I hope that you will agree that, as the director stated on a social media site, ‘[the cast] have exciting futures’. Raise a glass to the youth of today!
Reviewer: Christopher Oatway
Reviewed: 15th April 2015