There is a reason Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera is in its 28th year and I finally got to see why for the first time.
The UK tour - a slightly rejigged and spruced up version of the original 1986 show - is spreading the music of the night around. And thank God for that. This haunting tale of a ghost, his misdemeanours, the woman he loves, the man she loves, and the whole of Paris' Opera in a spooked frenzy, is powerful and enchanting.
Not as energetic as some modern day classics, instead it brings the beauty and decadence of exuberant 19th century France and an opera sound throughout – simply, an air of timeless elegance.
Our heroine Christine Daaé is played by Katie Hall, former contestant in the BBC/Andrew Lloyd Webber’s I’d Do Anything programme. I wasn't there in 1986, but it would be difficult to imagine how even Sarah Brightman herself could have topped this performance. Eloquent, flawless, feminine and spectacular. Her voice, the centre piece of the narrative, literally reverberated around the theatre. She sings her cloak off.
Liverpool got a treat (on the night I attended) when the main man was played for one-night-only by long-standing Phantom John Owen-Jones, due to illness of the scheduled lead Earl Carpenter. He is outstanding as the Phantom. Masculine, powerful and evil, yet broken, weak and scarred, the very present ghost had a wholly polished and rich voice, and he is obviously at home in the title role.
Angela M. Caesar as the Opera’s prima donna Carlotta Giudicelli, does drown out some of the other cast members during collective songs, and while I'm sure we were supposed to be able to follow each story being sung, it was impossible, leading to a musical bun fight on stage and leaving the mind slightly boggled.
And while the big recognisable hits are fantastic (Christine wasn't the only one spellbound by the Phantom's "Music of the Night") the obscure opera songs - there for the purposes of the actual opera scenes - go on too long in parts. But none of these minor flaws detract from the fact that this remains a blockbuster of a musical.
A special mention to Paul Brown's ever-changing, exaggerated and seamless set design as it provides an atmospheric backdrop. Overall, a completely dazzling show, which is worthy of a standing ovation every night.