The Phantom of the Opera (Review).

Do you hear those classic organ notes chiming in your ear already? The Phantom of the Opera, that amazing critically acclaimed musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber (and later a popular Joel Schumacher movie), is now coming alive inside the Lionel Wendt Theatre from October 1st to 12th, thanks to The Workshop Players and Director Jerome De Silva.

We attended opening night, and saw the Lionel Wendt full to the brim – likely with a lot of people who were looking forward again to experiencing the Andrew Lloyd magic that The Workshop Players brought us with Evita in 2012 and Jesus Christ Superstar in 2013.

For those of you who live under a rock, The Phantom of the Opera – a musical based on the French novel by Leroux – follows the horror-romance-tragedy of the soprano Christine who is haunted by a mysterious, disfigured, anti-hero Phantom. The opera is plagued by horrific incidents brought on by the Phantom’s rage, and still we see him rock between his violence and his gentle adoration for Christine, between the monster and the lonesome figure who yearns to be loved.

The Performance

The grand chandelier from the 1925 movie

What really stood out about the production was the grandness of it all. In true Broadway/Andrew Lloyd fashion, the stage and costumes were magnificent, at least by Sri Lankan standards since we don’t do a lot of huge musicals here.

We appreciated some of the special light effects used – some impressive moments were when rows of candles lit up at once on stage in the Phantom’s lair, and when the Phantom himself disappeared beneath a black sheet. The music and effects came together beautifully at times to truly spook the audience out and convey the uneasiness of violent scenes featuring the fearful Phantom.

The sets on stage were transformed in minutes, from a room to a garden to a smokey underground lair. The highlight of course was the infamous chandelier, that swung up and out from the stage and right above the ground floor audience, transporting them to the opera. Try your best not to get a balcony seat because this effect is kind of lost on you there.

Costumes! There were plenty and it was such an epic treat to watch. Even if you’re not a theatre enthusiast, this musical is pure entertainment for the eyes (and ears). Musical favourites like ‘Masquerade’, ‘Angel of Music’ and of course, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ were such fun to watch and listen – the singing on opening night was flawless. Kumudini David who played Carlotta and Dhanushi Wijeyakulasuriya who played Christine gave out the best of vocal performances; Shanuki de Alwis as Madame Giry and Jehan Aloysius as the Phantom himself also unsurprisingly performed impressively.

Seating & Food

There is so much work that has been put into the stage set and costumes, and this is one production that you’re going to want to see every bit of – especially the actors themselves when they perform the more moving scenes. So a ground floor seating is the best you can do, at Rs. 1500, and the more intimidating Rs. 3000 and Rs. 3500. However, this is one of the few times that a local theatre production is actually very engaging even in a balcony seat (Rs. 600), because of the captivating colours, lights and choreography.

You can get a hotdog or burger for Rs. 200-250 on your mid-play break outside the theatre. Yes, there’s a break in-between, because folks, the show is a little more than two hours long.

Conclusion

Opening night’s standing ovation

Phantom of the Opera is one of the biggest theatre productions in Colombo – costumes, lights, choreography, it’s a full-on assault to the senses that will most times grab hold of your attention in a mouth-agape kind of way (this was a big deal since I have an attention span of a goldfish). We loved the singing, the visuals and Webber’s music, and mostly, it was entertaining.

Check out the cast roster on Facebook here, and the event page here. Tickets are sold at the Lionel Wendt. The performances are typically from October 1st to 12th at 7.30PM, but afternoon shows will be held at 3.30PM on the 4th, 5th, 10th and 11th.

Edit: We had a bunch of cool pics up from the performance but had to take them down because of the copyright agreement these guys have with the UK company. So you’ll have to just go and see for yourself!

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