The Phantom of the Opera finally premieres in Malaysia at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur and it’s spectacular though the story and characters may need to be updated
The Phantom of the Opera is an award-winning, 1986 musical written by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on a 1909 French novel by Gaston Leroux. The longest running show on Broadway is having a world tour now and has come to Malaysia for the first time. Presented by Base Entertainment Malaysia, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and TEG Dainty, the show is playing at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur from June 15th until July 7th 2019.
If you’re around my age or older, the Phantom of the Opera needs no introduction. It’s only one of the world’s most beloved musical titles.
Almost the entire plot takes place in an opera house that’s haunted by the Phantom. He’s a disfigured genius who doesn’t usually show himself but he’s been teaching a young chorus girl named Christine Daae how to sing very, very well. He’s obsessed with her and she needs his guidance for her career but she has a thing for her childhood friend named Raoul. It is a classic romance drama. Contrary to own my belief, the horror elements are minimal.
Before I continue, I’d like to clarify that I am not an expert so take this review as a pinch of salt. I’ve only seen like a few musicals in my life. Mamma Mia, which was great. Thriller – Live, very, very good as well. And a couple more at a water theme park which I don’t consider as genuine musicals. Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap. Oh wait, sorry, that’s not a musical (ha-ha). Growing up, I’ve only seen a couple of films based on The Phantom of the Opera — a horror version and a Chinese remake of a Chinese reimagining. I had never seen the Phantom of the Opera in its pure form before this so this was actually my first time watching it.
As the prologue opens, the thing that impressed me immediately were the set designs. I understand these are brand new, created for this production. There’s a lot of detail in the set design that really brought me into that world visually. I was amazed how smoothly and quickly they can drastically change the sets too. I hardly notice them doing it. The chandelier is absolutely beautiful. It goes up to the ceiling and falls dramatically onto the stage with great effect.
When the first number – Hannibal Rehearsal – starts, the colourful costumes, set and more props immersed further me into that world. Then the vocal performances just simply blown me away. So the cool thing about the Phantom of the Opera is that there are fictional operas that play out in the story. Operas in an opera, if you will. So we get to watch and see a few different operas with different kinds of music and sets.
The operatic, glass-breaking singing of Beverley Chiat, who plays Carlotta, the opera house’s prima donna, is so, so powerful. A real soprano. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone hit that many high notes live before. It’s amazing.
I am familiar with a couple of the music — the titular song and the Music of the Night – but I was hearing the rest of the numbers for the first time and I loved them. They’re very catchy and melodically beautiful.
The vocals of the Phantom, played by Jonathan Roxmouth, is very moving. He hits all the notes so well, high and low. When he sings soft, my heart hurts. I really felt his passion and loneliness. His sad, desperate reasons for violence. It’s truly a touching performance.
Meghan Picerno, who plays Christine, sang and acted very, very well too. At glance, my girlfriend and I thought she looked like SNL’s Nasim Pedrad (ha-ha). However, I have to be honest, I was not very engaged by her character. I don’t want to sound like a douche who simply wants to find something to criticise about but I did have a bit of issues with the narratives and the characters.
I understand, through dialogues, that Christine and Raoul were close during their childhood but they haven’t met in a long time and they just decide to get engaged after talking to each other in like two scenes in the first act. It felt like she’s into him because he’s the only rich handsome VIP she knows and her other choice is a disfigured mad genius who made her a star. She seems to be easily seduced by the Phantom too until she sees what’s under the mask.
As for the character Raoul (played by Matt Leisy), I couldn’t identify what kind of person he is until in Act 2 where he finally shows his courage instead of just talking and annoyingly calling out for Christine.
And I don’t get what’s so great about Christine. Is it just her youth, beauty and voice that captured both men’s hearts? She’s not exactly depicted to be exceptionally kindhearted or anything. And did she have much of a struggle? I thought she’s actually really lucky. Frankly, I find it difficult to care about her.
I guess it’s just not the type of show with fleshed out characters and proper story development. There’s a lot of telling instead of showing for a romance drama. There’s also some humour I felt were quite out of place in scenes that are meant to be suspenseful and the characters are supposed to be scared and confused.
Sorry, movie-reviewing habits. I doubt any of this was the actors’ or the production’s fault. Probably everything was from the source material. Or maybe it’s just me. I mean, it is one of the world’s most popular musicals so these issues I had probably never mattered. Millions of people loved it for how and what it is.
If I was more familiar with the songs and lyrics, I might have been able to appreciate the show even more because I wasn’t able to catch every single word from the singing. Maybe then I would be able to understand and be more emotionally attached to Christine and Raoul through the music.
Anyway, guys, the Phantom of the Opera – World Tour showing at Istana Budaya KL, is truly an eye-opener for me and I really enjoyed the show despite the unconvincing romance. Very impressed by the brilliant performances and spectacular set designs. Not going to give this a rating like I usually do in my movie reviews ’cause as I said, I haven’t seen a lot of musicals but yes, I would highly recommend it for people who likes classic musicals such as this and more so to people who are very familiar with this title.
How often do we get such musicals and official productions like this in Malaysia? If you’re in South East Asia and have always wanted to see the Phantom of the Opera musical live on stage but you can’t go all the way to the U.S. or U.K. for it, you don’t want to miss this opportunity to catch it.
However, I do want to advice you to avoid the far right seats if possible. When I got to my seat at Istana Budaya, I was like, wow, I’ve never sat this close to the stage before. But there are a few scenes where things play out at the far right corner of the stage and my view was mostly, if not completely, blocked by the set pillar thingy. I saw people in front of me moving to any empty seats available. I can’t imagine sitting at the far right on the very first row.