Venue: The Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York
The York Orchard Musical Theatre Company’s production of The Phantom of the Opera is certainly an admirable endeavour; not only the cast, but also the entire company is composed of people under twenty five, and in this context there is plenty to praise about the professionalism of the production. However, having such a young team does have its downsides, and at times a slight lack of polish was apparent.
The performances of the central cast were, on the whole, very accomplished. Scott Goncalves as The Phantom and Ria Williams as Christine Daaé both gave consistantly strong performances, serving as a compelling core for the production. Barring a slightly strained transition between the sections of his voice early in the performance, Sam Lightfoot-Loftus also made a convincing, if not a particularly likable, Raoul. In general, the three key characters helped to maintain tension and bring the production to a satisfactory climax.
Outside the central cast, however, the quality of performances became a bit less consistent. While both accomplished singers, the Italian accents of Megan Conway’s Carlotta Giudicelli and Robert Fisher’s Ubaldo Piangi weren’t quite convincing enough to avoid being distracting. And, while the quality of costume in the performance was generally very high, Ubaldo’s fake cushion belly just seemed a bit ridiculous, particularly as Fisher waddled around the stage tapping on it, in what was either a slightly misguided attempt to make the cushion appear more believable, or just a decision to lean into the costume’s ability to break immersion. Elsewhere, Matthew Dangerfield’s Monsieur Firmin and Sam Lightwing’s Monsieur Andre, the opera theatre’s profit driven owners, were well carried out. Although, they were perhaps a bit too likeable for some of the play’s primary antagonists.
The production was at its least consistent when the entire chorus was on-stage, with some of the younger performers giving more stilted performances. While this is obviously completely understandable, it did distract from the more experienced members of the cast and even created a slightly amateurish feel at times. Similarly, the ballet sections came across as unpolished, which wouldn’t have been such a problem if they hadn’t featured so prominently throughout the play.
This is not to say, however, that the production as a whole felt amateurish. The orchestra, directed by Ben Papworth, didn’t seem to falter at any point of the production, and provided a suitable dramatic accompaniment to the onstage performances. As I’ve already mentioned, barring Ubaldo’s paunch, the costume was consistently well done, and the sets, while a little flat, made clever use of the on stage space. The Phantom of the Opera struggled slightly to overcome the youth of its cast and crew, but ultimately, aided by its central cast and orchestra, built into a satisfying conclusion.