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Friday, August 17, 2012

The ‘Phantom’ is here


There is no stopping the world’s greatest musical from astounding Philippine audiences this month, as the international cast and crew of the highly anticipated run of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera continue to arrive in Manila. The show will go on despite the non-stop rains and brewing storms.

“We’ve been coming in twos, threes, fives and tens,” said the production’s musical director and supervisor, Guy Simpson, at a press conference on Monday at The Diamond Hotel. “Manila’s a great place to live,” he maintained, even if he flew in on the week when raging floods left the capital at a standstill.

The Philippines is the 11th country where Simpson takes part in The Phantom’s travelling production, and despite gloomy skies, his excitement shone through as if it were his first foray into the musical masterpiece.

“The show looks like it was designed yesterday,” he enthused. “It’s as fresh as the day it was created. The production is second to none [because] of the great care—the obsessive care—the cast and crew bring to it wherever we go.”

As Broadway’s longest running and most successful musical, The Phantom of the Opera is currently on its 26th year of enthralling audiences, and has been produced in 145 cities, in 27 countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, Japan, Austria, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, Korea, Denmark, Spain and Russia. Manila, Philippines is now part of this remarkable statistics.

Enduring love
Famed for its lavish 18th century costumes and incredible set design, with the gigantic falling Paris Opera House chandelier as its centerpiece, it is still the music of The Phantom of the Opera that propels its longevity to this very day.

“It’s the highlight of the show,” declared Simpson. These are such classic songs as “All I Ask of You,” “Music of the Night” and “Think of Me,” among others, that together beautifully and dramatically tell the story of the love of the mysterious and hideously disfigured Phantom for the young Christine, his “Angel of Music.”

Jonathan Roxmouth, who essays the role of the Phantom in the Manila run, agreed. “The show remains relevant today because it’s all built on love,” he affirmed. “Love in its many different forms told in a magical way. This production is such a wonderful way of experiencing musical theatre and I’m sure The Phantom of the Opera will be around for another 26 years.”

Roxmouth is still high from his win at South Africa’s 2012 Fleur Du Cap Awards, where he bagged the Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of the Phantom. He is excited to be in the Philippines, which he added is the first country he has visited in Asia.

Joining Roxmouth in Manila is Australian soprano Claire Lyon in the female lead as Christine; and a support cast comprised of Anthony Downing as Raoul, James Borthwick as Monsieur Firmin, Jason Ralph as Monsieur Andre, international opera singer Andrea Creighton as Carlotta, Rebecca Spencer as Madame Giry, and Thabiso Masemene as Piangi.

Filipino breakthrough
Besides immersing themselves in the magic of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music, as delivered by talents from the international stage, Filipinos are also bound to feel a sense of pride when The Phantom of the Opera finally unfolds at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) main theater.

For there, they will see the lone Filipino cast member Dondi Ong as part of the ensemble, and on some shows, as the understudy for Piangi, the opera’s principal tenor.

Ong, who is a Magna Cum Laude of the University of the Philippines College of Music, bested other tenors of different nationalities when the production held auditions for the show’s Manila run and successive Asian tours.

“I’m living a dream,” he gushed, alongside Simpson, Roxmouth, Lyon and Downing at the panel interview. “It’s a great honor for any actor to be part of The Phantom of the Opera. It’s the pinnacle of one’s career to be part of the world’s most successful production that it’s not about the money or anything else. You just go out there and perform and that in itself is the reward.”

Simpson—who revealed that he was with Miss Saigon’s creators, Claude Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, when they came to Manila to find Kim in the 1980s—remains very impressed with the musical talent of the Filipino.

“That’s why I know that it is right to stage The Phantom of the Opera here because of your love for music and immense talent for singing,” he added.

Aside from Ong, there will be several Filipinos in the orchestra as well, who Simpson auditioned and personally chose during a previous visit.

He promises “a feast for the senses” come opening night on August 25, and all through the show’s extended run, which ends on September 30. But while the entire production would love to perform to a full house every night, Lyons thoughtfully offered, “But if the rains persist, we wouldn’t want to put anyone in harm’s way just to see the performance.”

Hopefully, with such beautiful music coming to the Philippines now that The Phantom is here, the skies may just clear in the next few weeks to give Filipinos a chance to see what critics have christened as “God’s gift to musical theater.”

The Phantom of the Opera in Manila is produced by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, David Atkins Enterprises, Hi-Definition Radio, Inc. and Concertus, in association with The Really Useful Group. Tickets are available at TicketWorld, with telephone number 891-9999 or website


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