Her Majesty’s Theatre – The Phantom of the Opera

Should the audience be informed if the production is using pre-recorded vocals?

The rumour has it some parts of this musical are pre-recorded and played during the performance. When the Phantom and Christine are descending into the underground lair of the Phantom their body doubles are used who are lip-syncing to the song. This could be counted as special effect of the show and feels quite natural. When Christine sings around high C in her “sing to me Christine” part, last few bars are pre-recorded, as singing those notes eight times per week would ruin any soprano’s voice. The rumour or not, I think it is quite acceptable to use pre-recorded vocals for some parts of the musicals, but if so, the audience should be informed about it. People go to the West End and pay considerable amount to watch live musicals, and it feels like a bit of a let down when they are deprived of the information that some parts of the musical are not actually live.

 

Theatre

Her Majesty’s Theatre is in the LW Theatres (Lloyd Webber Theatres, formerly Really Useful Theatre group), covered in my Adelphi theatre post.

The first theatre on the site opened in 1705 as the Queen’s Theatre, under the permission of Queen Anne. The theatre presented first Italian Opera in London and became lately devoted solely to opera. The building burnt down in 1789 in a fire deliberately set on the roof. New theatre opened in 1791, but gave first public performance only in 1793, due to licensing issues. The King’s Theatre, as called back then, was the largest in England at that time and hosted the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane company while the latter was rebuilt. After the departure of the company the theatre became devoted to opera again and was known as the Italian Opera House, Haymarket. When Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837, the name of the theatre was changed to Her Majesty’s Theatre, Italian Opera House. In the 1830s and 1840s, the theatre became also renown for its resident ballet company. In 1867, the theatre was destroyed by a fire. A third building was constructed in 1868, but had a short life mostly acting as an opera house before demolition in 1892. The current theatre opened in 1897 and presented classical and modern plays and literary adaptations. The theatre did not specialise in opera, though it ran operettas at occasions and started presenting musicals in 1916. Musicals continued to dominate at the theatre in the post World War II period, including transfers of the successful Broadway productions. The venue was also the setting for the ITV variety series “Live from Her Majesty’s” in the 1980s. In 2000, Her Majesty’s became a Really Useful Theatre when Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group and Bridgepoint Capital purchased Stoll Moss Theatres Ltd and since December 2005 Her Majesty’s Theatre has been owned 100% by the Really Useful Group Limited.

 

Plot

Musical starts with the auction at Paris Opera, in 1911. Theatrical props are being auctioned and Vicomte Raoul de Chagny purchases an old music box. Next lot up for sale is the chandelier. As the chandelier lights up, we are transported back in 1881, when this opera house was shining with splendour. The company is preparing for a new production, Hannibal, when they are interrupted by the new owners, Firmin and André. The lead soprano, Carlotta, tries to impress them with her singing when a backdrop falls unexpectedly. The company members start to whisper that “It is the Phantom of the Opera”. Carlotta refuses to perform until the new owners resolve such incidents that have been happening in the theatre for the past 3 years. Carlotta is replaced by Christine Daaé, an ensemble dancer and the orphaned daughter of the Paris Opera violinist. Christine has a successful debut. Vicomte Raoul de Chagny, the opera patron and Christine’s childhood friend, hurries to the dressing room to congratulate her after years of separation. Raoul invites Christine to dinner and leaves to get his coat. As Raoul exits Christine hears a chanting, which she attributes to the “Angel of Music” that her father sent to her after his death. “Angel of Music” has been giving Christine the music lessons. As the chanting intensifies the Phantom appears in the mirror. The phantom takes Christine down to the opera cellars and across the lake to his lair. The Phantom explains to Christine that he chose her to sing his music. Christine takes the Phantom’s mask off and sees his distorted face. The Phantom is enraged, but with Christine’s tenderness he calms down and let hers go peacefully. Next day, Firmin and André receive a letter from the Phantom demanding to give Christine the lead role in the next opera and a non-speaking part to Carlotta, also, to leave box 5 empty for himself, otherwise, a “disaster beyond imagination” will befall on them.  Firmin and André do not follow the instructions and during that night’s performance Carlotta’s singing becomes a frog-like croak. Firmin calms the audience announcing that performance will be resumed with Christine Daaé playing the lead. Christine is terrified and enjoys a moment of quiet with Raoul on the roof, but the Phantom hears their love vows and promises a revenge. The Phantom makes his public appearance at the Opera masquerade. He hands his new opera to André, demanding that Christine should play the lead and disappears. Raoul plans to use the premier of this new opera to capture the Phantom with the help of the Gendarmerie. He learns from Madame Giry, ballet mistress, that the Phantom is a man of many talents, who was born with a deformed face. He was treated with cruelty as a young boy, caged and exhibited in a freak show. Eventually he escaped and found refuge somewhere in the opera cellars. Raoul talks Christine into performing on stage again in order to get rid of the Phantom once and for all. On the night of the premier, the Phantom replaces the tenor during the performance and in his scene with Christine, puts a wedding ring on her finger. Christine rips off his mask; the audience is shocked. The Phantom drags Christine to his lair, followed by Raoul. The Phantom captures Raoul and tells Christine that he will let Raoul go only if she stays with him forever. Christine, thinking about the misery the Phantom might have gone in his life, hugs and kisses him wholeheartedly. Touched by the kindness, the Phantom let Christine and Raoul go, but Christine returns to give back the wedding ring. As the couple exit the police starts to enter the lair and the Phantom disappears behind his cloak.

 

Production

The music for The Phantom of the Opera was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and the lyrics by Charles Hart. The book was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber together with Richard Stilgoe based on Gaston Leroux’s book with the same name. The musical opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1986 and had its Broadway premier in 1988. It is the longest running show on Broadway and second longest on West End.

Director:         Harold Prince

Producer:        Really Useful Group, Cameron Mackintosh

Casting:          James Orange Casting

020 3393 2612

casting@jamesorange.com

Linear House, Peyton Place, Greenwich, London, SE10 8RS

The most recent major cast change was in August 2018. The production runs open auditions occasionally, but mostly audition information is available on well-established casting websites.

 

Ticket

Bought my ticket from LW Theatres website. £34.8 for a restricted view seat in the back row of the stalls. There is a pillar in the way, but leaning on the sides improves the view. Though, due to the overhang, missed some parts of the performance: Phantom singing on the roof of the opera, Phantom dragging Christine to the lair.

 

Running time is 2 hours 30 minutes.

 

The Theatre Rat

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