The Manila run of Phantom of the Opera officially begins tonight, but I was fortunate to be one of the journalists invited by Concertus Manila to watch the exclusive technical dress rehearsal last night.
Seated in the middle of row 2, with row 1 completely empty and the infamous chandelier right above me, I lived my fantasy of watching one of the world’s best musicals as if it were staged just for me. Here, the highlights of that magical night:
One of the popular scenes of the Phantom, “Masquerade” did more than just deliver the expected colorful and exuberant number. When the curtain opened and revealed the ensemble dressed in glittering costumes and masks, the collective gasp from the audience said it all.
Even if you’ve watched the show in another country before or are at least familiar with the storyline, there still are many unexpected moments in the production, such as startling special effects and chilling scenes that would make your jaw drop.
Chalk it to Pinoy pride; I kept looking for Dondi Ong, the only Filipino cast in the international tour of Phantom of the Opera. Dondi was cast to play mostly ensemble parts and Ubaldo Piangi in some nights. Tenor Thabiso Maseme played Piangi last night, but it was a delight to spot Dondi in some of the big scenes.
Special effects and stage design
You’ve probably heard fans gush about the show’s special effects and set design one too many times, but seeing how it all came together in the CCP Main Theater made me appreciate the hard work put into the production. During the intermission, I had a chance to chat with the director and producers of Phantom, and they told me that it took four weeks to ship every prop to Manila and onto the stage, including the one-ton chandelier that deserves a standing ovation on its own.
Not a sequin was out place as the cast and ensemble donned the breathtaking costumes, some of which were created by the late award-winning designer, Maria Björnson. With the replica of the Paris Opera House as the backdrop, the set and costumes took me back to the late 1800s.
Claire Lyon made a beautiful Christine, with her soprano vocals inducing goosebumps upon goosebumps. Photos don’t do her justice; she looks better in person and onstage. Anthony Downing brought his knight-in-shining-armor persona to Raoul, while Jonathan Roxmouth made an intense Phantom, with the depth of his character building up in the second act. I was nearly in tears in the final scene, where Jonathan revealed a more empathizing layer to the disturbed and violent Phantom.
The supporting cast also delivered. Andrea Creighton as Carlotta was fun to watch, with her comedic skills balancing out the dark foreboding mood of the play. The pint-sized and adorable Cat Lane made the perfect Meg, while Rebecca Spencer’s interpretation of Madame Giry is less daunting than previous versions I’ve seen.
Just for kicks, I would observe every member of the ensemble during scenes where the audience was focused on the leads. The ensemble stayed true to their craft—not one member dropped character even for a second.
Who needs to fly out to London’s West End or New York’s Broadway just to see a world-class musical? It’s all right here in Manila. My love affair with the Phantom isn’t over yet. I’m off to join the special press preview next week, while my family and I have already booked tickets to the September 13 show.
Watch The Phantom of the Opera from August 25 to October 14, 2012 at the CCP Main Theater, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Blvd. Pasay City. Tickets are available via Ticketworld. Ticket prices: P7,280, P6,032, P4,680, P3,640, P2,340, and P1,820. Dress code: formal for Gala Night, smart casual to semi-formal for all the other shows.
Students can avail of a discount exclusively for seats at Balcony 1 and 2 throughout the season. For the bundle promo, buy 4 and get 40% off on the 3rd and 4th tickets.