A look back on the colorfully re-envisioned ‘Phantom of the Opera’ UK tour

Earl Carpenter as the Phantom and Katie Hall as Christine in the UK Tour of "The Phantom of the Opera."

Earl Carpenter as the Phantom and Katie Hall as Christine in the UK Tour of “The Phantom of the Opera.”

The Phantom of the Operaone of the best loved musicals of our time, recently underwent a dramatic re-envisioning for the UK tour. As the tour draws to a close tomorrow, it’s time to look back on the show.

The West End production of Phantom first opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1986, and was described by the Sunday Express as a “gorgeous operatic extravaganza that is a thrill to the blood and a sensual feast for the eye.” Now in its twenty-seventh year of nightly sell-out performances, the same can still be said.

A brand new production has been touring the UK since March 2012, with a lavish new restaging and outlook on the show. The leading trio for the tour has included John Owen-Jones and Earl Carpenter sharing the title role, with Katie Hall and Simon Bailey as Christine and Raoul. All have played the roles in the London production.

Part of what seems to make The Phantom of the Opera what it is is the late Maria Björnson’s stunning sets and costumes. Without her work, it is possible to see how Phantom would not be the worldwide success it is today. So when it was announced that the show would undergo some big changes when it came to the visual aspects of the show, fans were understandably apprehensive.

The London production is known for its gothic designs, with deep blues, blacks and golds being the main colors that I associate with the show, and the UK tour is a massive departure from this aesthetic. There are splashes of color everywhere, with one example being the manager’s office, which is lined with patterned red wallpaper. Even the Phantom’s lair seems quite colorful in comparison to its usual design.

Changes were also made to the costuming, and fans went into an uproar over the slightly comical curl added to the Phantom’s wig. While many of Maria Björnson’s designs were utilized, things such as Christine’s iconic red scarf from the “Wishing” gown went missing. Another major change included the Sylvan Glade ballet costumes becoming white togas. It is true that the cost of the original production’s designs are massive, however, it was disappointing to see that many of the costumes had become a second priority to the grand redesigning of the set.

What was also interesting was some of the blocking changes, such as Christine’s suicide attempt just before “All I Ask of You”. This scene takes place on the roof of the Paris Opera House, and Christine looks over the edge before preparing to jump off. While the scene isn’t new to the show (with Katie Knight Adams’ performance probably being the most notable in this aspect), it was explored further in this production, which tried to be darker in its emotional content despite its vivid sets.

The production itself was very visually beautiful, but it just did not seem to fit The Phantom of the Opera. While the original production itself would have been very difficult to take on tour, with the set and mechanics being modeled around Her Majesty’s Theatre, it could have been done. Despite this, it was still exciting to see a fresh perspective of the show.

The UK tour has had a successful run with a brilliant cast, and this vivid reimagining of Phantom is set to tour the USA in the near future.

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