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The Phantom of the Opera - 6th Februry 2022

London's second-longest-running musical and Broadway's longest-running musical, The Phantom of the Opera continues to wow audiences across the globe. On Sunday I took my mum on a return trip to see the show in London at Her Majesty's Theatre and had such a compelling experience that I felt I need to document it not as a reviewer or blogger but simply as a theatre fan.

My first experience of The Phantom on stage didn't come in its brilliant original form but in its sequel, Love Never Dies which opened at London's Adelphi Theatre in 2010. I know Love Never Dies may divide people but I adored it and saw it repeatedly during its run. It was after seeing Love Never Dies that I naturally made my way to the original and was blown away by its brilliance - although my first visit came sitting in the balcony at Her Majesty's Theatre and that was a little disconnecting from the show.

Her Majesty's Theatre

Fast forward repeat visits down the 10 years until we get to February 2020 and the opening of the new UK and Ireland touring production of the show which luckily for me based in Leicester was opening at Curve. I made two visits to see the tour, including the press night in which I gave the show a richly deserved 5-star write-up. We all know what happened next, the shutdown came, the theatres closed, and devastatingly the tour was completely cancelled. Leaving Curve on press night I had no idea that it would be the last musical I would see live in person for over a year. 

Fast-forwarding again through the pandemic through to Sunday and the visit to see the show again. I booked tickets for my mum's Christmas present and got us tickets on the front row, we were both so excited to be having a lovely day out in London and to see the show again. We arrived at the theatre, did the usual things, brought a programme, studied the cast board (more on that to come) and then found our seats.

As soon as I sat down I felt in this whole different mind space, seeing the set again took me back those 2 years to February 2020 and throughout the show, I was mesmerised and transfixed by the performance in a way that I hadn't felt before. This wasn't just theatre just was something much deeper. 

Being in the front row at Her Majesty's Theatre meant the performance felt intimate, even on its grand scale, at times I forgot I was even in an auditorium full of people. You can see all the costume details, hear the voices of the performers not just through their microphones but just naturally. Another bonus is being so close to the orchestra pit means you can have a little peek into the live music being played too.

The thing that hit me the most was this was that same production from the 2 years previously, albeit in a different theatre and some different cast members, although the same 3 leads. That journey of going through the ride of the pandemic came a little full circle. It made me connect so much deeper as I mentioned. It made me realise what a journey we've been on but also that now there's a bit more light in the world once more even if the difficulties and uncertainties aren't over. 

The cast board for Sunday's performance

The emotions on the stage, the heart, the passion of the piece and the performances connected in a way I found deeply moving. Killian Donnelly's Phantom felt so real, the isolation, the rejection, the pain of this man - the final scene was utterly heartbreaking. Donnelly's voice carries so much power and feeling, he is in complete control of every beat of the role from this poor figure, to the madness and the murder that ensues. 

Alongside the magnificent Donnelly was Holly-Anne Hull as Christine. Hull has such a beauty to her performance, she carries Christine with such poise and grace even as she's torn all over the place with the Phantom, Raoul and the opera. Hull's vocals soar and hit you with real majesty direct into your eardrums with such a delight - her rendition of 'Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again' is simply a masterpiece.

Completing the leading trio was Rhys Whitfield. He oozes class as Raoul. He reconnects with Christine and their beautiful love that is tested as The Phantom's grip tightens. He is a real likeable presence, at times previous Raoul's I've found can be a little wishy-washy and that you almost root for The Phantom but here you feel Raoul's evident sorrow too. Whitfield, much like Donnelly and Hull has a commanding vocal that is tremendous to hear.

The performance on Sunday was full of covers and even cast members returning to the show especially to keep the performances going. Manon Taris is a phenomenal Carlotta - I'm not sure she even required a microphone, her stunning voice carries so well, I thoroughly enjoyed her characterisation of the role. Returning Matt Bateman is a fine a Piangi was you'll ever come across. The ease of his vocals, he made the whole performance look effortless.

Tim Morgan and another returnee Kris Manuel brought the theatre managers Monsieur Firman and Monsieur Andre to live brilliantly. Both lighting up the stage in every moment. Francesca Ellis commands the stage as Madame Giry, she makes the character rightly so mysterious. Ellie Young is a brilliant Meg Giry and such a skilled dancer.

The cast at the curtain call.

Throughout the rest of the company, with another returnee in Connor Ewing, and covers and swings on for parts, the show felt so alive. It felt like the whole company has come together and faced the challenge together to make sure the show goes on which it is. This also goes to the entire backstage crew too, who keep the show alive and on stage every night - thank you.

Much has been made about the orchestra cuts that happened once this production re-opened post-lockdown, whilst I don't agree that these should have happened I want to focus on those who are there and bringing this gorgeous music to life with such aplomb. Under musical director Simon Lee the music sounds as fresh as it did the day it was first heard by audiences. 

The performance came and went in a flash of emotion and joy. I felt alive. I felt like I'd been on a journey, not just for the 2 and a half hours but for 2 years, I felt like I reconnected with that me from 2 years ago that has been a little lost during the pandemic. I've seen loads of shows since theatres began reopening but this hit differently. I think it being that last musical that I saw, and featuring many of the same cast members too, quite a uniquely special moment that I shall not forget in a hurry.

The Phantom of the Opera rightly deserves to run and run and run and this production is in safe hands right now with a world-class talented company, an outstanding crew who make the magic happen every day, lovely front-of-house staff, and just incredible material to get yourself lost in. Thank you to everyone involved who made this experience so connecting and special. Theatre doesn't get much better.

The Phantom of the Opera continues at London's Her Majesty's Theatre. Tickets are available from

The famous chandelier.

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