I turned 18 on Saturday. Here’s a scary thought: I’m officially an adult everywhere except from the US which is baffling considering I’m one of the most clumsiest and most immature people I know. I still can’t control my laughter when someone says Uranus, I struggle pronouncing my letter ‘R’s’ and ‘Vesuvius’ and I definitely can’t eat without getting it around my mouth and staining my clothes.
To celebrate my eighteenth birthday in style, I booked front row seats for the Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre with my family. This marked my fifth visit and I was still left feeling like it was my first time being seduced by this production. I’m still not sure how I managed to do it but I brought along my musical-theatre-hating older sister who has been singing its praises ever since. To quote, “Oh no, it is it finished? It felt like it was only on for twenty minutes.” and “I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I think I’d quite like to see Les Mis one day.” Super fan in the making over here. Angel, my theatre bestie, also booked tickets for the show in the Grand Circle so it was uber lovely to share the Phantom birthday experience with her.
For those not familiar with the story of the Paris Opera House, it tells a tale of the “Phantom” who is filled with self loathing triggered by his appearance but is overwhelmed with the love he feels for Miss Christine Daaé who is otherwise *engaged* with Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny. In short, its one colossal love story which leaves you emotionally drained.
Ben Forster played the role of the Phantom and I cannot even begin to tell you the feeling of pure elation when I read his name on the cast board. This was my fourth attempt to catch him in the role and I couldn’t have been happier to have finally seen him perform (on my birthday too, what a treat!). His performance was INSANE! His Phantom is moving and engaging; he encapsulates the character well and captivated me throughout the show. His Final Lair was a particularly memorable performance in which his love and heartbreak for Christine shone. PICK THE PHANTOM, CHRISTINE. For the second time, Team Phantom won me over. (3-2 to Raoul).
Celinde Schoenmaker played the role of Christine and she never ever ceases to amaze me every single time I see her perform live whether it in Les Misérables or Phantom. Her performance was effortless and she flawlessly hit every note. Her voice is glorious, extremely stunning and versatile, and her Think of Me cadenza was mind-blowing, to say the least. I dread to think what my ‘theatre-face’ looks like: open mouthed and leaning forward to the edge of my chair. I can’t imagine anyone else portraying the role better. (Ps. How is it so humanly possible for one person to be so pretty? Give me your secrets please, Celinde).
Nadim Naaman portrayed the role of Raoul and I’ve been lucky enough to see him four times in this role. He makes the character likeable rather than overly arrogant which seems to be a favoured attribute amongst many portrayals of Raoul and with Nadim’s performances, you understand why she chooses him rather than the Phantom. He plays him with such a protective manner and the chemistry between him and Christine is SO CUTE in All I Ask of You. My heart literally explodes, especially when you can see the heartbreak in his facial expressions when Christine kisses the Phantom. It truly is a joy to watch him in this role.
It marked Megan Llewellyn’s last day as the Diva Carlotta on Saturday and I am incredibly sad to see her leave the cast. Her performance was incredibly effortless, delivered with such ease and it was clear that she enjoys what she does. She exposes Carlotta’s vulnerability and yet brings a light-heartedness approach in her performance. It’s truly been a blast having seen her four times in such an iconic show.
Sion Lloyd and Mark Oxtoby, as Firmin and Andre respectively, delivered a comedic performance of the theatre managers and bounced off each other well to bring humour to what is a heavy show. Paul Ettore Tabone who portrays Piangi delivered such a light hearted yet ‘phantastic’ if you pardon the pun, performance. Jacinta Mulcahy and Daisy Hulbert gave so much depth to the performance and it was such a pleasure to watch.
In the curtain call, Celinde Schoenmaker wished me a ‘Happy Birthday’ which truly made my entire birthday. She came out of stage door, where I met up with Angel after the show, and wished me a happy birthday again. Angel and I became friends through a tweet last year about Celinde and ever since, we’ve been pals. We had a conversation with Celinde and I’m such a fool when it comes to meeting people I’ve admired (is that the right word?! I don’t want to sound like a stalker) for a while so I am the most weird person to talk to because I just say a load of babble. You’d think after the sixth time of meeting her, I would know exactly what to say. She is so ridiculously lovely though and I’m so pleased to have such an amazing idol.
We also met Ben Forster who is such a genuinely lovely chap. I told him about my misfortune of missing him in the role four times and he seemed so shocked that I hadn’t seen him. It gives me an excuse to come back time and time again. He warned us about the masked march in Trafalgar Square and told us to be safe. Bless him. He wished me a Happy Birthday and took a few photos with us. He is so lovely!
We also met Megan Llewellyn who we wanted to give our best wishes to before she left the company. She knew who we were! How lovely! She asked us if we were interested in performing; I wish, I can’t act, sing or dance though so I’ll just stick to the writing. She’s such a wonderful lady and I wish her the best of luck in all her future endeavours. Thank you for everything!