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Cameron Mackintosh provides update on The Phantom of the Opera's West End return, set for late July

The longrunner is coming back

Cameron Mackintosh
© Dan Wooller

The Phantom of the Opera producer Cameron Mackintosh has commented on the return of the gargantuan musical – currently set to return to Her Majesty's Theatre later this year.

The long-running show's life has been in and out of the press over the last year, following reports that the original production was being moved out of its original home so that renovations and refitting can take place at the Haymarket space.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Mackintosh promised a "more opulent" Phantom, with a revamped chandelier (one of the piece's most iconic features) that is "coming back bigger and better. It will move faster and be more terrifying." The cast for the show will remain the same size, it has been confirmed.

Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber's (who composed the piece) company Really Useful Group issued a statement earlier this month stating that the West End show will use "the acclaimed orchestration for 14 musicians that was created for the international productions of the show", adding that "these orchestrations are just as thrilling and rich as the original but would not have been possible with the technology available in 1986. The new Phantom orchestra will remain one of the largest in the West End."

The Telegraph has confirmed that the new West End show, directed by Seth Sklar-Heyn, will be modelled on the touring production and utilise the orchestrations devised for the 25th anniversary touring version by Lloyd Webber and David Cullen. It will utilise Maria Bjornson's original designs.

With the orchestra size being reduced from 27 to 14, there was outcry on social media, with the Musician's Union also issuing a statement saying it was "sad and disappointed" by the plans.

Mackintosh stood by the move, stating that: "Am I sorry? I'm sorry they're upset, but I do find it odd why musicians would want to keep doing the same thing year after year. I believe we should not be holding jobs for actors or musicians ad infinitum. This is not the Civil Service, we're creating art."

He also added that "with the margins so fine, no one in their right mind would consider in this day and age putting a 30-piece orchestra in this theatre."

The plans for the orchestra were elaborated on by Lloyd Webber, who told The Telegraph: "Today's technology enables excellent replication of sounds, especially woodwind and brass, but the skill of the keyboard player shouldn't be underestimated and this orchestration demands a great deal of the other players who have to be of soloist standard."

Mackintosh also noted that, Covid or not, the pre-pandemic production's run was reaching the end of its life, given the structural issues at the venue (as reported here), and some sort of change was unavoidable.

As such, the ability to bring the touring production into Her Majesty's and adapt it for the West End was, according to Mackintosh, a lucky strike: "If this other production hadn't existed, we wouldn't be standing here looking at the potential reopening of Phantom." The producer has said that the piece's re-adaptation for the West End will cost £6 million.

The Les Misérables producer ended with a firm proclamation: "I have spent 50 years delivering the highest-quality musicals this country has ever seen and I'm not about to stop now."

What remains clear is that audiences won't know exactly how Phantom will look and sound in the revamped Her Majesty's until it reopens – currently set for 27 July 2021.