Life in the Fast Lane


No More Talk of Darkness

By 11:21 AM , , , , , , , , , , ,

I've never been to the USA (I'm gonna get there someday soon, though) but I've always known that my first stop there would be New York. Primarily because of Broadway. In fact, watching at least one of my favorite Broadway plays in New York is one of my biggest dreams. For one thing, I'd love to see RENT, Wicked, The Lion King, and Les Misérables in the flesh, among a host of other productions.

But while this hasn't happened yet, I've had the privilege of seeing a few foreign productions that were brought here for Philippine audiences to enjoy. Over ten years ago, it was Miss Saigon. My heart broke along with Kim's (played by our very own Lea Salonga), and I remember needing to collect my jaw from the floor after seeing a helicopter onstage (mind you: I was only used to seeing a sprinkling of Philippine theater performances and my sister's ballet recitals performed on that stage; I had no idea how they fit a helicopter in there). The following day, I remember having a really bad post-Saigon hangover that I listened to the CD over and over again for weeks. (Plus, it didn't help that I had a teeny-tiny crush on "Chris", played by Will Chase. Funnily enough, when "Michael" was introduced in the TV series Smash, I knew his voice sounded familiar and it turned out that "Michael" happened to be Will Chase.)

After several years of silence (at least in terms of foreign productions), CATS was brought here two years ago. Aside from the fact that the cast was composed of mostly West End/Australian theatre actors, Lea Salonga was cast as Grizzabella. I remember how her rendition of Memory sent chills running up and down my spine over and over again.

Last year, there was Mamma Mia (which I didn't get to see, unfortunately). However, the off-Broadway show, STOMP, was brought to Manila as well. This, I got to see. STOMP was both a visual and aural spectacle: a cacophony of sounds, sound effects, colors, props, and movements.

This year, finally, the long-awaited (seriously, I've been waiting for this for years) The Phantom of the Opera was brought to Manila's shores. On the day back in February when they announced that tickets were on sale, my family and I immediately reserved and bought our tickets for the September 2nd show.

Poster nicked from Google.

Yesterday, I walked into CCP with excitement. After all, I was about to witness the second longest-running musical in the theater world right before my very eyes. I couldn't wait to be seated, have the lights dim, and hear the signature organ melody that would cue to the start of the show.

© Tina R. Araneta

In almost no time, the lights did dim, then fade to black, and before I knew it, I was hearing that chilling, haunting organ melody.

© Tina R. Araneta

Talk about goosebumps. In a matter of minutes, I was immediately transported to France in the 1800's: the era of big skirts, corsets, masquerade balls, and opera. 

The Phantom of the Opera, in a word, was unbelievable. I couldn't gather my thoughts after watching it. I was spellbound, enthralled, dazzled, moved, and heartbroken.

I guess that's what theater (especially when we're talking about the best of the best in the theater world) can really bring to the table: a plethora of emotions and thoughts that renders the audience breathless.

Phantom had so many highlights, and here are some of my favorites:
  • Hearing the first few organ notes of The Phantom of the Opera. I couldn't believe I was listening to it being performed in front of me — with an actual conductor and orchestra.
  • The amazing, gorgeous costumes. The Manila run brought in more than 230 costumes by an international designer, the late Maria Björnson.
  • The set and production values. From the lighting, to sound design (creepy when you hear The Phantom's voice scattered all throughout the theater, coming in waves and trickles), to the change of scenes (where did that huge staircase come from?), to the use of almost all spaces within the stage — vertically and horizontally — to make sure that nothing was wasted, to the fact that you barely hear the shuffle of footsteps when they change sets during lights-out. Wow.
  • The scenes whenever The Phantom would bring Christine to his lair. This deserved a separate bullet point for me. Seeing the candles slowly being lit, the mist hovering over the "lake", the rowboat that was electronically powered to steer both characters from the background to the foreground in an almost ethereal manner, to the slow ascent of the candelabras until they were upright. What a visual feast! 
Photo nicked from Google.
  • The larger-than-life chandelier. If I'm not mistaken, this was flown in as well. 
  • The songs. The orchestration. Such music to the ears and food for the souls.
  • All the performances. The cast was stellar, their singing was impeccable, their vocal prowess and control were superb. I'm running out of superlatives, clearly.
Photo taken from here.
  • Raoul, Christine, and The Phantom. Gorgeous people, gorgeous performances, gorgeous voices. Until now, I can't get over how incredible it was to have listened to and watched them live.
Photo nicked from Google, taken by Chico Garcia.
Meet Claire Lyon (Christine), Anthony Downing (Raoul), and Jonathan Roxmouth (The Phantom).
  • The final scene. You can see, hear, feel, sense, and be overwhelmed by The Phantom's anguish. Each note he sings will rip your heart into shreds. I left the theater with tears in my eyes. Jonathan Roxmouth was sheer brilliance.
Needless to say, the cast received four curtain calls. And as soon as we walked outside to check out the booth selling souvenir items, at least fifty people were in line to buy a poster, a necklace, a shirt, or what have you. The hallway was abuzz with raves and praise for the show.

The family (except our camera-shy father) and friends after watching.
© Tina R. Araneta

If you're a theater aficionado, you need to see Phantom. And even if you're not exactly a fan of theater, you will still appreciate and be overwhelmed by Phantom. Needless to say, it is one must-watch production. 

The Manila run started last August 25th and was extended from late September (originally) 'til October 14, 2012 to accommodate more shows. Hurry and book your tickets via Ticketworld Manila!

Just picture seeing and hearing this in the flesh. I guess this is enough of a reason to go:

Bravo to the producers, actors, production crew, technical staff, musicians, and everyone involved. And, of course, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Thank you for the wonderful ride that was The Phantom of the Opera

Now, I wonder what they'll bring in next for 2013. Les Misérables? Wicked? Your guess is as good as mine.

P.S. A word of caution though: as in every international production, they're strict about starting on time. If you're late/go to the bathroom when the lights dim, they'll probably only let you in during intermission/make you watch from the back until intermission. Be there on time!

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  1. Hi,

    What seats did you purchase? I'm thinking of purchasing the balcony seats but I'm not sure if it'll be good enough. Thanks!

  2. Hi, Kate!

    We stayed at upper balcony (PhP 3,500). The view wasn't too bad. You can get binoculars, if you wanna see the cast's face up close, but otherwise, you'll actually be able to appreciate the effects and set design from upper balcony.

    Enjoy the show! :)


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