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posted/updated: 15 Aug 2017 - edit review / upload photos
The Phantom of the Opera Youth Production
Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Charles Hart, additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe, and a book by Lloyd Webber and Stilgoe
society/company: Harlequins Drama Group, The (directory)
performance date: 09 Jun 2016
venue: The Palace Theatre, Redditch, Worcestershire, B98 8AE
reviewer/s: Andrew Powell (Independent review)

I’M NOT sure if I can find the words that adequately describe just how good this show really was – but here goes.

I have to pre-empt this by admitting wholeheartedly that Phantom is quite simply my all-time favourite show. I’m hooked and was ever since I first saw it in the West End. Just how someone can compose such incredibly delicate and yet powerful lyrics and music, all expertly weaved together with spellbinding storytelling is beyond me, but Andrew Lloyds Webber’s show has it all.

Having seen Phantom in London and then on tour in Birmingham, the Harlequins certainly had a lot to live up to, but my goodness they managed it – and heaps more. In short, because of the intimacy presented by the much smaller Palace Theatre, one could argue that this added to the supremacy of this performance, but in all honesty I could not have imagined a more professional, powerful and emotional show.

Jonathan Southall as director brilliantly guided the 30 young actors and actresses, aged from 14 to 21, through this masterpiece of theatre about a deformed and bitter man, known only as the Phantom, who lives in the sewers underneath the Paris Opera House. He falls in love with obscure chorus singer Christine, and privately tutors her while terrorising the rest of the opera house and demanding Christine be given the lead roles.

The lead in the Harlequins production was played by New Yorker Eric Lopez, 21, who read about the show on-line and came all the way from the States to Redditch for the audition – and we can see why he landed the part. His performance was electrifying, getting the pitch between climax and quiet, power and betrayal so right, especially in the unbelievable title piece. A more powerful theatre performance you would surely travel a long way to have witnessed.

Locally-born Emily Bedford as Christine however certainly gave Eric a run for his money. It really is a stunning achievement that someone so young could possess such a mature voice and outlook – the pairing was captivating from beginning to end.

It really would be impractical to mention everyone involved, but two others on stage deserve a special mention. Laura Nicholson as the precocious Carlotta was a real delight (I’m not sure why the Phantom didn’t like her!), while love interest Dylan Hartnell as Raoul displayed the range and stage presence wholly necessary for such a demanding part in a show full of such powerful scenes and characters.

It’s odd really that a combination of musical notes and words performed in a particular way can reduce even the most level headed person to tears, but there were tears of emotion and pride aplenty around tonight. I for one never wanted the show to end.

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