Phantom of the Opera
Spotlight Theatre, Ashmore
25th October 2013
At the final Greenroom Project for 2013 at the Arts Centre, Gold Coast recently, a nervous principal cast of the Spotlight Theatre’s production of Phantom of the Opera took to the stage to perform one of the show’s most complex numbers. Nervous not only because they were only a few weeks into rehearsals but because Australian theatre legend, Marina Prior was in the Audience. Ms Prior was, of course, the original Christine in the professional premiere of Phantom in Melbourne some 23 years ago.
Jump forward a month or so and the Gold Coast’s first community production of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber / Charles Hart / Richard Stilgoe classic opened at the Spotlight Theatre in Ashmore on Friday evening last. It’s a big ask – it’s an enormously complex show involving numerous dramatic scene changes, a vast collection of intricate costumes, tricky special effects and some very demanding vocal work. Director Tony Alcock has done his best to simplify a very demanding script and adapt it for a community stage with no fly tower and very limited wing space. Performances are, on the whole, strong and the ensemble has been used sparingly and effectively. The decision to perform the entire show to professionally recorded backing tracks sets a high musical standard – one that the cast rarely fail to equal.
However, before I move onto the lead cast, I must make a special mention of Kylie Loveday in the supporting role of Meg Giry, the young ballet dancer friend of Christine. Ms Loveday is a natural on stage - her voice so pure and clear. I’d love to have heard more from her. Likewise, the ballet ensemble, choreographed by Jessica Papst, is tightly rehearsed and delightful to watch.
In the challenging role of Christine Daaé is Melanie Smart. Ms Smart carries this taxing role with great courage, her operatically trained voice seems faultless and her grasp of the drama is apparent but not overplayed. Opposite her is Brad Kendrick as Raoul – Le Vicompte de Chagny. Resplendent in his tails, Mr Kendrick is vocally strong and provides a convincing “handsome lead” in this tragic love tryst. Unfortunately, in the title role of The Phantom (Erik, the Opera Ghost) Rohan Smith struggles vocally in places and appears to play the tormented Phantom a little too brutally and not so much as the anguished, romantic recluse that I would expect, Erik to be.
as the Phantom of the Opera
The costumes (by a vast team of nimble Spotlight seamstresses) are extraordinary – a triumph of creativity and talent. It goes to show that a little imagination (and a lot of clever handiwork) can overcome a limited budget every time. Sadly the Set department didn’t seem to enjoy such “creative imagination”. While the concept behind the simple set (comprising of multiple pieces moved around to form the different areas of the Opera Garnier) is a wise one considering the limitations of the tight stage, the simplistic construction, wobbly stairs and uninspired finishing lets it down. It’s all just a bit bland and too dark for my liking.
This is after all, one of the World’s most opulent buildings – a lavish Second Empire blend of Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque architecture. I’m afraid a handful of spray-painted paper doilies just doesn’t cut it.
And then there’s the chandelier: arguably one of the lead players in this show and certainly one of the most memorable moments in all musical theatre history – the “falling chandelier”. I’m not sure quite what happened – maybe it was an unfortunate first night technical failure. A grand chandelier did reveal itself in the opening auction scene but failed to make its dramatic return at the end of Act I. A scream, a loud audio effect of breaking glass and a blackout took its place.
Other effects work well – the use of multiple levels is interesting and the magical disappearance of the Phantom at the show’s climax is cleverly staged. As I said at the start, this is a damn hard show to mount – many community groups would not be brave enough to even consider it. My hat’s off Spotlight for attempting the near-impossible; for biting off more than they can chew and then chewing like hell … and for providing yet another enjoyable night at the theatre.