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Unbelievable as this may well be to some, I can truthfully declare that I have never seen the other Phantom that’s been a staple of the West End scene for many years.  I, unlike many in the audience, came to this production of Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit’s Phantom without a set of well developed preconceptions about what the show should contain and how the songs should sound. 

Suffice to say that this, the UK premiere no less, is yet another feather in the cap of the musical Theatre powerhouse that is All Star Productions

Here, at their base above a rather nice pub in Walthamstow (which is only about 20 minutes from the West End on a pretty effortless tube journey), All Star and their director, Dawn Kalani Cowle, have worked together to create a wonderful world inhabited by fantastic creatures who perform upon the Opera House stage and who also occupy the terrain beneath it. 

The Phantom, played brilliantly by the incredibly talented Kieran Brown, is not “just” a monster. In this production he is a human being and a man you can’t help but find yourself sympathising with, as the trials and tribulations that life has thrown in his path are revealed. 

Kira Morsley as Christine compliments the Phantom in both vocal ability and star quality, and there are times that she completely steals the show. That said they are both upstaged by the deliciously vicious and vindictive Carlotta, the new owner of the Opera House and self appointed leading light of the company. Played by Pippa Winslow she is the perfect comic foil to the rest of the serious goings on and if she lapses at some times into Cruella de Vil territory then long may she continue to do so, as it makes her character so evil that it wouldn’t be amiss to have thunder and lightning effects accompany her every entrance!

Set design, although especially good in the catacombs, is sometimes hampered by a desire to do more without taking into consideration the limitations imposed by the size of the stage, audience seating and band.  It is of course not the set that holds your attention here anyway, it’s the singing and that is simply extraordinary. The songs range from ballad to tender love songs via numbers wrought with all the emotion you would expect to find in this story of love, loss, desire and revenge. 

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Reviewed 17th May

By Colin Appleby

14th – 31st May 2013
Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre, London, E17.

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