Review: ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ A Viva Youth Production at The Brook Soham Thurs 6th March 14

Viva Youth never ceases to amaze me. Although they are ‘amateur’ performers, there was nothing ‘amateurish’ about the production I saw last night. It was fantastic – every bit as good as the London production I had seen previously. Even more so, these performers have a special freshness and vitality that is often missing from the more commercially-driven enterprises in the big cities. We are very fortunate to have this thriving company in our midst.

With the theatre decorated appropriately, we were immediately made to feel that we were part of the production, sitting in furnished seats, decorative lighting above. When the action started, we knew this was not going to be just a string of the popular songs, this was real acting. The story progressed wonderfully, creating spine-chilling moments that contrasted well with episodes of poignant, impassioned romance. One of the highlights for me was the duet between Christine and Raoul. It was unforgettable.

Duncan Earlam as the Phantom was a great substitute for Michael Crawford. His powerful voice with its seductive nuances and his creepy actions trying to seduce the innocent Christine made his part come alive. Lauriane Borde was a superb Christine, her beautiful voice rising splendidly to those chilling high notes, the emotions of her impossible situation always present. Ben Clerk as Raoul was also fantastic. His mature rich tone and authentic role-play were unsurpassable. Another splendid performer was Laura Day as the spiteful Diva Carlotta. She somehow managed to alter her wonderful voice just enough to give it that shrill edge that befitted Carlotta exactly. Charlie Gillet made a delightfully entrenched Italian opera singer as Piangi, and Lee Sharwood ( Firmin) and Phil Evans (Andre) were deliciously gung-ho, insensitive new owners. There was no nonsense from Madam Giry played by Ellie Bovingdon and Rebecca Storey gave the character of Meg genuine credibility and substance.

The large ballet chorus and ensemble enhanced the production with well-focused and tuneful voices, managing faultlessly some very tricky passages. The choreography, as expected, was excellent too. Much of the atmosphere was created by the superb band of musicians. The band with Musical Director Stephen Kenna tackled this mammoth, challenging score effortlessly and the long list of the crew, led by Producer and Director Dan Schumann, are to be congratulated for an amazing West –End type production. This, surely, will be impossible to top – we look forward to their next production which will be ‘Les Miserables’ in July. It should be well worth attending

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