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Did critics fall for new-look Phantom?

The 'brilliant original' production is back in the West End

Killian Donnelly as Phantom
© Johan Persson

Phantom is back, in a newly revamped production led by Killian Donnelly in the titular role, opposite Lucy St Louis as Christine, with Rhys Whitfield playing Raoul.

Did it still charm the critics?

Alun Hood, WhatsOnStage

★★★★

"Phantom phans are a vociferous, impassioned bunch and there was much concerned online chatter when it became clear that 'The Brilliant Original' (as the marketing blurb used to have it, and it's hard to disagree) was going to be returning post-pandemic with a depleted orchestra and a somewhat re-designed physical production. Would it sound as good? Will it still look as impressive? The short answers to those questions are, respectively, alas not completely, and HELL YES.

"Killian Donnelly's superbly sung Phantom nails all of the difficult money notes (his 'Music of the Night' is outstanding) but seldom feels sufficiently authoritative in his majestic moments nor tragic enough in his broken ones... Lucy St Louis's captivating Christine... is one of the most spirited, psychologically acute accounts of the role that I've seen. Her bell-like rendition of 'Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again', the lament for her dead father, is incredibly moving precisely because she is elsewhere so strong."

Lyndsey Winship, Guardian

★★★★

"That famous descending organ riff and its synth-rock bass may scream 1980s camp, but this is a show committed to bombast, the grisly gothic tale of the murderous phantom menacing a 19th-century Paris theatre unashamedly embraces high drama, backed by a wall of sound when Lloyd Webber's more dense writing contrasts with the hit melodies.

"The show has a dedication to analogue theatrical effects, from trapdoors and smoke to a skull-topped cane shooting fireballs, and, sure, there's something hokey about the Phantom playing gondolier in the boat to his subterranean lair. But the late Maria Björnson's maximalist designs, from vivid masquerade ball to Degas-style ballet dancers, set the tone for old-school fantasy. Go big or go home, as they say."

Serena Davies, Telegraph

★★★★

"The musical's return boasts the London production's first woman of colour, Lucy St Louis, to play the object of the Phantom's adoration, Christine Daaé. In a story where the men take the initiative, any Christine's main job is to stand around looking surprised – St Louis did her best with that, and grabbed her big solo, 'Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again', with both hands.

"Like any indestructible artwork, The Phantom of the Opera plugs into myth. From Caliban to Quasimodo to Frankenstein's monster, the shunned repulsive figure with beauty on the inside has always been able to reach out and yank at our heartstrings. Lent a hand by Lloyd Webber's sumptuous tunes, so too does this Phantom."

William J Connolly, Broadway World

★★★★★

"Phantom is back where it belongs after a difficult year of not just a global pandemic, but public battles between composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and producer Cameron Mackintosh, who both are keepers of its brilliant global success. They each care deeply about this story, and while they clearly have different desires in how they'd perhaps like to see it staged today, this refreshed production is the perfect balance that's sure to please everyone. Yes, really. It's that good.

"To be clear, this isn't a whole new production of reimagined and soaring storytelling, but it's also not the original and makes that very clear. It's a fresh look. It's had the botox treatment. A little lift. There's a new painted feature wall and a new lamp, a remodelled set, and a grander golden arch that houses the opera scenes. Phantom had, as you'd expect of a 30+-year run, become a product of its time. It aged, gracefully. But thanks to this new production, under the direction now of Seth Sklar-Heyn, it's taken the genius inspiration of its beginning and added an extra sparkle. And sparkle it does, but the darkness comes too. Phantom has never felt so spooky and uneasy."

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