PERHAPS the enduring success of the Andrew Lloyd Webber version of Gaston Leroux's classic novel about a love triangle can be attributed to the musical's ability to fill our senses with delight and surprises from awe-inspiring settings to a score that is proving to be timeless.
I'm pleased to say that the Encore Theatre Company production of The Phantom of the Opera delivers the spectacle this show demands.
The Phantom is a tale of obsession, loneliness and loss ending in love and, perhaps, redemption. Such a gothic love story must be framed in the right atmosphere.
The team responsible for lighting, costumes, set and sound design deserves high praise for creating a visual feast and establishing a clear mood for each scene.
I was particularly struck by the clever use of simple set pieces and lighting to create a striking scene in a cemetery. Other memorable moments include the boat trip across a subterranean lake and the well-choreographed stage opera scenes.
Musical directors Matt Dudfield and Susie Heggie have given audiences a full, richly textured score performed by an impressive orchestra.
Ultimately, all these elements can only be truly effective when combined with strong characters to captivate and enthral us. Fortunately, director Belinda King has assembled a strong lead cast and staged them to maximise the bonds that exist between the various characters. It might have been opening night nerves but I did notice the occasional inconsistency in dramatic performance.
Nonetheless, Dean Cocker as the tormented Phantom, Amelia Reynolds as his young protaacégaacé Christine and Matthew Garwood as Christine's valiant suitor Raoul carry the story through their amazing voices.
Other standout performances include Di Briffa as prima donna Carlotta and Ella Booth as Meg Giry.
Special mention must be made of the opera house owners played by Paul Mannion and Ross Marsden, who add a touch of comic relief to the melodrama.
This production works hard for its audience - The Phantom expects nothing less.
The Phantom can be seen at the Princess Theatre from Wednesday, March 19, through to Saturday, March 22, and Wednesday, March 26, through to Saturday, March 29, at 7.30pm, with matinees on Saturday March 22, and March 29, at 1pm.