Behind the Phantom

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Jonathan Roxmouth as The Phantom.

The soulful voice of theater actress Meghan Picerno filled the Star Theater, where rehearsals for the whole cast of The Phantom of the Opera were in full swing.

The cast and crew of Broadway’s longest-running musical flew to the country earlier in January to begin setting up for its Manila run, happening from 20 February to 31 March this year.

Originally, the production was supposed to be until 17 March only, but because of its overwhelming popularity, Concertus Manila and Lunchbox Theatrical Productions decided to extend it.

The same thing happened when the Phantom invaded Manila in 2012. With the local audiences mesmerized by and in awe of its stellar staging at the CCP, the three-week run was extended twice, and now it returns once again.

Meghan Picerno as Christine.

When asked why they think Phantom resonates strongly with audiences, associate director Arthur Masella talked about how the show has not aged.

“This show does not feel dated — not in the writing, in the staging, in the stagecraft. I think that is the primary reason why people still yearn to see this production,” Masella said.

Or it could be the love story, as musical supervisor Kristen Blodgette pointed out.

“I think, if it isn’t the beauty of the visual or its melodic accessibility — if none of that seems to grab people, even our younger audience, then it might just be the love story,” she said.

Phantom is a classic love triangle. Based on Gaston Leroux’s classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra, the story tells of a disfigured musical genius haunting the depths of the Paris Opera House. Hiding behind a half-face mask, he was known as The Phantom.

Due to overwhelming public demand, two more weeks were added to the Manila season of “The Phantom of the Opera.”

Jonathan Roxmouth (Che in Evita and the Pharoah in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamboat) will play the titular role.

Mesmerized by the angelic voice and beauty of a young soprano named Christine, the Phantom seduces and falls in love with her, oblivious to her love for another man, Raoul. Meghan Picerno portrays Christine, while Matt Leisy plays Raoul.

All hell breaks loose when the Phantom’s obsession and jealousy  spiral out of control, leading to climactic scenes.

“There is something about the universality of the period, of the story of rejection, of love for each other. Those things transcend any human generation,” said associate choreographer Denny Berry, who shared that they have the best ensemble that is at par with the original cast when the Broadway musical premiered at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End in 1986.

From then on, it became one of the most beloved musicals in Broadway history. It made a milestone in 2006 when it celebrated its 7,468th performance to become the longest-running musical, surpassing the previous record holder Cats.

THE cast held an open rehearsal ahead of their Manila comeback on 20 February.

On 1 January 2018, it celebrated its 13,000th performance. Later that month, the production celebrated an amazing 30 years on Broadway.

It has won seven Tonys on Broadway and four Olivier Awards on West End. It became the first stage production to reach a gross of $6 billion. To date, Phantom has toured 37 countries and 172 cities, and has been watched by over 140 million people around the world.

ASSOCIATE choreographer Denny Berry with director Arthur Marsella and musical supervisor Kristen Blodgette.

Aside from the enduring love story, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music is simply timeless. Even those who have not seen or heard about the Broadway musical would definitely recognize its iconic songs — “The Phantom of the Opera,” “All I Ask of You,” “Music of the Night,” and “Think of Me” — the last two we heard Roxmouth and Picerno rehearsed during the open rehearsals.

And from the excerpts we have seen, we would not be surprised if the run would be extended twice — again.

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