Sarah Brightman, who became a star 25 years ago as the original Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera, made a special curtain call appearance at the musical’s anniversary concert at London's Royal Albert Hall on October 2. This mega-theatrical event was broadcast live around the world, including NYC's Ziegfeld Theatre, presented by NCM Fathom Events. (For photos of current and past Broadway stars of the show who made the scene, click here.
At 51, Brightman is rocking the Christine look—the Botticelli hair, the flowing virginal white gown—and can still hit the ingenue’s high notes, as evidenced by her well-sung (if under-miked) performance of the show’s title song alongside current London Phantom John Owen-Jones, next London Phantom Peter Jöback and legendary past Phantoms Anthony Warlow and Colm Wilkinson. (Original star Michael Crawford was in the house, but did not sing.) Although it was a nice surprise to see her onstage toasting the success of her former husband Andrew Lloyd Webber (who, believe it or not, still refers to her as his “angel of music”), the Christine torch had clearly been passed on.
At this point, there doesn’t seem to be a better Christine than Broadway baby Sierra Boggess, who triumphed in the concert presentation, just as she had last year in the show’s sequel Love Never Dies in the West End. Boggess had already been a pretty great Christine five years back when the shortened Las Vegas version of the musical first opened, but appearing as older Christine in the sequel seems to have deepened her work in the part. While many actresses play Christine as the more passive leading role in Phantom, Boggess acted the hell out of the part, even making the Phantom’s big “Music of the Night” solo a fascinating moment for her character, visibly toying with feelings of desire and disgust in a real way. And Christine’s graveyard song to her dead father, “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again,” was a vocal highlight, an emotional outpouring on the level of Boggess’ astounding performance of the title aria in Love Never Dies.
Of course, chemistry is a two-way street, and Boggess was again beautifully matched by her vocally powerful Love Never Dies Phantom, Ramin Karimloo. It should be noted that the staging slightly altered the ending of the show, making it unclear if Christine was singing her final reprise of “All I Ask of You” to the Phantom or Raoul. (Thus making the sequel’s revelation that—SPOILER!—she ran back to the Phantom after the final curtain to make a baby all the more believable.) It’s thrilling to think that a live CD (and DVD!) of the event is forthcoming, as both Karimloo and Boggess soar on Lloyd Webber’s gorgeous songs.
Also standing out in a flawless cast were Hadley Fraser as a manly Raoul and the hilarious Wendy Ferguson (a last-minute stand-in for American soprano Kiera Duffy) as large and in charge diva Carlotta. The ensemble cast was refreshingly huge (no puppets needed to fill the stairs in “Masquerade”!) and projections were used to imply set pieces that couldn’t be imported onto the Royal Albert Hall stage. The only scenic disappointment was the chandelier, which sparked but didn’t come crashing (or even crawling) down to the stage.
We enjoyed the concert alongside members of the Broadway company of Phantom from the comfort of the Ziegfeld Theatre. The show was beautifully shot and edited live, and it was thrilling to see the special event happen live before our eyes (with a bucket of popcorn) 3,400 miles away. The screening will be rebroadcast on October 5, 6 and 11 and is highly recommended. Click here for info on theater locations.
More than anything, the concert served as a reminder that Phantom is still the king. A gorgeous, deeply felt piece of musical theater that deserves to, yes, live forever. Here’s hoping Lloyd Webber and producer Cameron Mackintosh celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary on Broadway in January 2013 with similar drama and panache.
Photos by Dan Wooller
Original Phantom stars Michael Crawford & Sarah Brightman reunite.
Hadley Fraser, Ramin Karimloo & Sierra Boggess take a bow.
Phantom producer Cameron Mackintosh with Andrew Lloyd Webber
Sarah Brightman hits the high notes.