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Sunday Lifestyle

‘Phantom’ Asian tour kicks off in Manila

THE X-PAT FILES - Scott Garceau - The Philippine Star
âPhantomâ Asian tour kicks off in Manila
Musical supervisor Kristen Blodgette, associate director Arthur Masella and associate choreographer Denny Berry field questions.
Photos by Bening Batuigas

That mask. Those voices. The songs. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera continues to enthrall Manila audiences, presented by Smart, PLDT and brought back by Concertus for a “love month” opening at The Theatre at Solaire.

Not only that, as we learned in a morning rehearsal session at Star Theater in Star City, they’ve added two more weeks to the run, from its gala premiere on Feb. 20 up to March 31. 

Watching open rehearsals is a special kind of thrill: you get to see the talent warm up, polish their moves, sans sets but fully costumed. It feels like a behind-the-scenes treat.

Manila is the starting point for an international tour that next goes to Singapore. The international touring company features Jonathan Roxmouth as The Phantom and young soprano Meghan Picerno as Christine. (Watching Picerno’s tonsils vibrate impressively during Think of Me was alone worth the visit.)

Jonathan Roxmouth (here serenading Meghan Picerno) returns as The Phantom of the Opera for an extended Manila run.

This is the original production of Phantom, utilizing the creative team that first brought it to stage in 1986, and staging it at Solaire’s state-of-the-art Broadway-level venue. A lot has changed in the world since its debut in 1986… but Phantom lives on. Seen by 145 million people worldwide, with 130 cast and crew members, 230 costumes (originally designed by Maria Bjornson), and over 40 million copies of Webber’s music soundtrack sold, it looks to keep on going, perhaps, forever.

Entering its third generation of touring (Phantom already broke records by becoming the longest touring Broadway show back in 2006), I had to ask if new, younger audiences might experience the play differently than previous generations did? (And my unspoken follow-up: “…particularly in light of #MeToo and other modern concerns?”)

Not so much, it seems. According to musical supervisor Kristen Blodgette: “I think one amazing thing about Phantom is it sort of transcends language and time. We may not speak the language in each country, but every language, every audience, there seems to be something that resonates with the audiences.” True, there is something timeless about this production, whether it’s the operatic flourishes or avant-garde mask worn by the tortured Phantom.

“Somehow, it manages to excite new audiences at every turn,” Kristen adds. “If not with the beauty of the visuals, it’s the melodic accessibility, and if none of that grabs the young people, it just might be the love story which is one of incredible acceptance — it’s a great story that still resonates.”

Meghan Picerno as Christine, doing an excerpt from Think of Me.

Adds associate choreographer Denny Berry: “There’s something about the universality of the period, of the time, and of the love story — of redemption, love for each other, those things transcend any period. It still works for all of us.”

It might even gain in meaning as you grow older. According to associate director Arthur Masella, “So many times we have 18-year-olds coming to the show who now say, ‘I saw this with my mother when I was four, and it moved me in a way that I couldn’t fully understand or appreciate, but now that I’m 18, oh my God!’”

As the cast bursts into the pantomime of Masquerade, you’re reminded again of how familiar Phantom of the Opera is. And in this day and age, a little familiar space can be very comforting.

Says Kristen: “I think that in this world, we all need someplace to escape to now and again. Any way we can find respite from the cacophony of things, if it’s through art or music, that’s a really good thing.” Sweet intoxication, indeed.

The Phantom cast rehearsing Masquerade

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Catch The Phantom of the Opera at The Theatre at Solaire from its gala premiere Feb. 20 to March 31, with two weeks of added Manila shows now available. Presented in Manila by PLDT and Smart, brought by Concertus Manila and produced by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, tickets are on sale now through Ticketworld.com.ph, or call 891-9999.

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

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