Directing The Phantom of the Opera was always one of my dream projects whilst at Durham and this production has gone above and beyond anything I first imagined. This musical presents a number of unique challenges and the way the cast, CPT and orchestra have responded at every turn is truly astounding.
Coming into rehearsals I had a clear vision of what I wanted from this production, with the logistics of Leech Hall undoubtedly factoring into elements of the Phantom’s entrance and remodelling iconic scenes of musical theatre. I saw the opportunity to create something unique. However, what we have managed to achieve through the creative and original input from the whole team has elevated it to another level. Slowly, my life became exclusively Phantom and I wouldn’t change a minute of it.
While there have undoubtedly been moments when I thought ‘oh, this is why this musical is so rarely, (if ever?) done in Durham’, it was a challenge I willingly accepted. Crafting the unnerving ambiance of the Phantom’s lair, to the animated thrust of Prima Donna, this musical presents a multitude of opportunities to delve into genres from comedic opera to despondent tragedy, and emotions from adoration to despair. Each Phantom brings their own insecurity, each Christine their own wonderment.
However, the director is only a part of the story. In particular, Thomas, Megan, George and Anoushka are some of the most talented people I have met. They have extraordinarily challenging vocals, parts I could only dream of singing, and working with them to cultivate their characters, whilst adding their own twist, has been an endless source of enjoyment. Likewise, the entire ensemble have been a joy to work with since day one and always put a smile on my face. The cast have made my job as director that much easier and I am eternally grateful to you all. This cast felt like a family.
Without Catherine’s dedication, Daisy’s direction, Henry’s, Miles’ and Theo’s technical expertise, Alice’s creative eye and Ellie’s organisational skills, to name but a few, this musical looks extremely different. Bringing out the visuals and technical side of a musical is central to the process and the Creative and Production team have brought my vision to life beyond what I thought possible. Their dedication and commitment are the lifeblood of this show.
However, truly none of this happens without Jonjo, our musical director. The complexity of the score and vocals is breath-taking; the scale of a 22 piece orchestra and 17 person cast is enormous; the pace relentless. As one of the most talented people I know, and one of my close friends, undertaking this project with him is a memory I will cherish forever, from endlessly bouncing ideas off each other for 6 weeks to that look when the final run through finished. He was with me from 8am to 1am throughout production week. This simply does not happen without him.
I knew undertaking Phantom would be the most difficult production I had ever directed, and it was, but the entire cast, CPT and orchestra truly made my vision take flight. Thank you all. I hope you enjoyed the show even a fraction of how much I have loved directing it.
By Peter Houston