Three Phantoms**** (Richmond Theatre, 24 November 2013)

Posted: November 25, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews:

Discarding their masks and without a chandelier in sight, three actor/singers with one role in common lead us through this sampler box of musical theatre delights. Matthew Cammelle, Stephen John Davis and Glyn Kerslake have all, at some stage, played the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. They are joined by Rebecca Caine, herself once Christine in Phantom, and accompanying singers. The songs are taken from stage musicals, although they include some, such as Unchained Melody, which have been drafted onto musicals but do not originate from them. Very familiar songs like I Am What I Am from La Cage Aux Folles and I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady are mixed with obscure ones such as Into the Fire from The Scarlet Pimpernel, never seen the UK. Caine’s rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s No One is Alone from Into the Woods is truly memorable and, over the course of the evening, we dip into shows as diverse as The Boys from Syracuse and Jersey Boys, The King and I and The Book of Mormon. London is soon to be reminded how good the score for Miss Saigon is and here we get a foretaste, together with a reminder of the ill-fated Martin Guerre. In fact, although this show’s title nods towards Lloyd Webber, there is much more Boubil and Schonberg in its content. The first half climaxes with a medley of familiar songs from Les Miserables, beginning with a superb a cappella version of I Dreamed a Dream and ending with the rousing One Day More, which, it seems, always needs to be followed by an interval. The second half is more of the same mixture and it is not until near the end that we hear anything from Phantom itself, preceded by songs from two other less famous musical adaptations of the story by Ken Hill and Maury Yeston and then from Lloyd Webber’s own sequel Love Never Dies. Our Phantoms do not get round to the song most associated with their common role, Music of the Night, until the encore, when they join forces to perform it. The back screen of the set is filled with twinkling stars, but this is a show without star names. This makes it a heartening celebration of the strength and depth of talent working in British musical theatre. Long after stars like Crawford and Brightman have flown to their next projects, it is guys like these who keep shows fresh, maintaining the standards set by the original casts. The songs are performed accompanied only by piano, cello and backing singers and Anthony Gabriele’s arrangements are tip-top. Less successful are the attempts at comedy, in which all the performers tell anecdotes and jokes. This becomes rather tiresome after a while, but it is only a very minor quibble. All in all, this is an enchanting evening.

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