Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Short Review - Matt Byrne's Community Production of "Phantom of the Opera"

Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical, “Phantom of the Opera” still dazzles thousands if not hundreds of thousands – maybe even millions – every year. It has done so since it made its debut in 1986 starring Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. Until recently, remembering the musical is more than 25 years old, the only community productions allowed were put on by educational institutions but it appears that the rights to community productions are expanding lately and I have had the pleasure of witnessing Australia’s second community production.
Produced by Matt Byrne Media, well known in Adelaide, South Australia, Matt Byrne is honest when he states it is the largest and most complex production they have attempted. I know full well that a professional production costs millions to stage – in venue hire, marketing, costumes and the cost of the cast and backstage crew. Ideally you’d have enough money to renovate the theatre as though it were the Paris Opera House; perhaps not from the outside but certainly from the inside.
With Michael Bates in the title role, Ellonye Keniry as Christine Daee and Will Daniels as the Vicomte de Chagny, this production is a credible resetting of the professionally staged musical. The standout performer of this production is Ms. Keniry whose vocal talents are superb and spot on. Mr. Bates provides a manic, angry phantom – certainly by the ending scene one loathes this phantom's actions but pities his fate - he made me shed a tear for him. An excellent performance and I look forward to seeing what roles Mr. Bates challenges himself to take next. Whilst there were some outstanding support from the other roles and ensemble, I was left a little disappointed in Mr. Daniels’ portrayal of Raoul. I found his voice was up to the role, but his acting (perhaps as much the director’s responsibility) left me quite unconvinced that he was the young, dashing nobleman Christine Daee would desert the phantom for.

I give a caveat to my comments about Mr. Daniels. When young I always dreamed that the Phantom of the Opera would teach me to sing and make me famous like Christine. It's possible I'm unconsciously jealous.
Overall, I enjoyed the production and it was generally well done. None of the performers – principal or ensemble – made me grit me teeth and bear them. The two main characters – the phantom and Christine – were superb, especially Christine. However, I feel the performers were let down by the constant crackling of their microphones and sound equipment and without a revolving set (lots of money) and such expensive “toys”, the scene changes did, at times, intrude into the story.
I would recommend seeing this production – bearing in mind that if you’ve seen a professional production, it will – of course – not compete. Nonetheless, I believe it is worth seeing.