“with such a thriving score and incredible cast, this production will be one for the books!”
I was in awe as I watched the talent that Bailey Theatre company presented, the choice of performing such a timeless score as The Phantom of the Opera would seem too great of a challenge for many student theatre companies, but it was a risk that certainly paid off.
The impeccable direction (by Peter Houston, assisted by Daisy Mitchell) provided many moments of curiosity, entertainment, and upmost professionalism. I would first like to recognise how appropriate the casting felt, there was not one role which I felt could have been casted better and it was great to see new faces in DST. The creative vision of keeping the classic haunting nature of the original musical, whilst adding personal touches of humour created an incredible balance between professional and student theatre. Admittedly, the choice of Leech Hall to stage such a high scale production posed some challenges which I anticipated, although, I was pleasantly surprised by just how effective the smaller venue was at amplifying the more nuanced scenes between the Phantom and Christine. Every corner of Leech Hall served a purpose in constructing the environment of tension which underpinned the heavy script, the most accomplished directorial choice was the decision to utilise the window/roof above the theatre. Allowing a distinct and unpredictable entrance for arguably the most anticipated song in the show, without doubt the creative team provided the most eloquent execution of this level of production as possible in a college theatre.
The intensity of the show was upheld through the incredible stamina of the entire band, who to their credit successfully performed such a relentless and demanding score for the entirety of the production. Major praise goes to the musical director (Jonjo Palmer, assisted by Phoebe Halpern) who have potentially the most difficult job of handling such a famous score, which in my opinion they provided justice to. At times, ensemble singing felt slightly pitchy, which is almost inevitable when performing such an intricate score, although overall the singing was incredibly impressive, and every performer should feel exceptionally proud. The limited setting available posed little obstacle to the efficiency of the production, the remarkable use of functional props was a great strength aided at developing the plot, much recognition must go to the production and stage managers (Henry Flack and Ellie Malley) for effortlessly designing a space which was eye-catching, yet not distracting from the talent on stage. Occasionally, transitions took too long, and props were left on stage which hindered the actors abilities to move as freely as possible, but these are issues which can be easily fixed, and did not deter from the overall accomplishment of the production.
Likewise, I must acknowledge the lighting and costume design, which was a standout of this stellar production, the well thought out lighting decisions made the acting feel even more intentional; the combined awareness of lighting and music ques meant all the dramatic moments were more palpable for the audience. Specifically, the outfits and makeup presented on all the actors added to the overall professional feel of the show. The makeup artist (Maisy Hicks) deserves a great amount of praise, specifically for achieving the crucial stage makeup needed for the role of the Phantom, which is central to the whole premise of the plot.
Without a doubt, the production could have failed without the incredible casting of the Phantom (Thomas Rainford) and Christine (Megan Shorey), who excelled my hefty expectations, they both provided astonishing performances worthy of great attention, and I can’t wait to see what incredible roles they take on in the future. Shorey’s beautiful rich yet soft tone shone alongside the powerful vocals provided by Rainford, they both complemented each other through acting and vocal choices, as the naïve interpretation of Christine worked exceptionally well with the twisted and conflicted presentation of the phantom. Likewise, I could listen to Raoul (George Cass) sing all day, who provided tender emotion and passionate vocals throughout the show. The facial expressions and physicality of every actor was exceptional, and particularly the presence of Madame Giry (Cecily Morley) stood out, through great vocal range and commitment to her character. My personal favourite performances were given by the equally talented Carlotta (Anoushka Pluwak) and Piangi (Ellie Davies) who both truly provided hilarious performances and incredible singing, their chemistry really shone in group scenes, aided by exaggerated ensemble reactions, which highlighted the unity of the cast.
Each actor on that stage is equally deserving of individual recognition as every person provided such great commitment to their characters and worked so hard at maintaining the intense rigour required at performing such a renowned production. With this said, Phantom of the Opera is one show you don’t want to miss, with such a thriving score and incredible cast, this production will be one for the books!
By Niamh Williams
Photo Credits: Bailey theatre company