TV stars join theatre-goers as Phantom of the Opera opens at Edinburgh Playhouse

Producer Cameron Mackintosh with John Owens Jones, (The Phantom), Katie Hall, (Christine) and Simon Bailey (Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny). Picture Ian Rutherford
Producer Cameron Mackintosh with John Owens Jones, (The Phantom), Katie Hall, (Christine) and Simon Bailey (Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny). Picture Ian Rutherford
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THE music of the night washed over the Playhouse as a sell-out audience sat enthralled as Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s lavish new 25th anniversary production of Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera unfolded around them.

What was arguably the biggest gala opening of the Capital’s 2012 theatre calendar also attracted a host of celebrities, who last night joined theatre-goers to watch the musical spectacular, which runs at the Greenside Place venue until October 20.

Curtain call. Picture Ian Rutherford

Curtain call. Picture Ian Rutherford

River City actor Gary Lamont was among the stars present while others spotted making their entrance along the red carpet were BBC news anchor Catriona Shearer and Bay City Rollers legend Alan Longmuir.

Based on the 1909 novel by French writer Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera is a beauty and the beast style love story.

When the beautiful young soprano called Christine Daaé finds she has become the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius, she must break free of his control despite the danger that poses to those around her.

With a brilliant new design by Paul Brown, costumes by the late opera designer Maria Björnson, a new staging by Laurence Connor, and new choreography by Scott Ambler, the show sees the original production updated for a new era.

Speaking after the performance, Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who took to the stage for the curtain call as the company received a standing ovation, said, “For the second time this year I am delighted to bring a terrific new production of mine to Edinburgh.

“With Oliver! having gone down a storm a few months ago I have no doubt that this powerful and spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s glorious masterpiece will be an even bigger success.

“I’ve been really thrilled how well this new production has been received everywhere and look forward to all my friends in Scotland having a knockout evening with this amazing cast and orchestra.”

Having wowed the audience in the title role, John Owen-Jones, who last appeared at the Playhouse as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables earlier this year, added: “I saw the original tour here and it is where I fell in love with Phantom. I am delighted to be back. Edinburgh audiences are second to none.”

His co-star, Katie Hall, who first came to public attention as a contender in the BBC talent search I’d Do Anything, added: “Edinburgh is a very special place. It was my favourite city on the Les Mis tour and it’s wonderful to be able to return again with Phantom. ”

Summing up the feelings of many of the audience, Bay City Roller Alan Longmuir enthused: “The set’s amazing, it’s one of the best sets I’ve ever seen.

“The whole thing is great. Christine [Katie Hall] is absolutely brilliant but they’re all good. I would definitely recommend it to Evening News readers.”

Catriona Shearer too had only praise for the show and the 
performers.

She said: “I have to say I didn’t think I was a fan of musicals but I’ve come along tonight and changed my mind. And of all the musicals to see in a theatre like this, as a first proper musical, Phantom really has to be the one, it’s great.

I’m thoroughly enjoying it, it’s magnificent, it’s amazing. I’ve brought my mum along and we’re just having a wonderful time.”

River City star Gary Lamont, who plays Shieldinch hairdresser Robbie Fraser, added: “This is the first time I’ve seen Phantom of the Opera on stage and it is a total spectacle. It’s a bit surreal seeing it when you’ve been used to hearing the music so much. It’s been running for 26 years now and I’m just completely overawed.”

Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera was the second time Leroux’s novel had been adapted for the stage – the first being Ken Hill’s 1976 musical. With lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, Lloyd Webber’s original production opened in London’s West End in 1986, and on Broadway in 1988.

Multiple awards followed, including an Olivier and Tony Award for Best Musical, before the production toured, coming to the Playhouse in 1995 and again in 1999.

Currently the longest-running show on Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera celebrated its 10,000th performance in New York in 
February of this year.

After last night’s gala opening in Edinburgh, Playhouse general manager Gary Roden admitted he was delighted by the response the show has received from theatre-goers.

“Our audiences will be blown away by the sheer scale of the production and the renowned attention to detail guaranteed by Sir Cameron 
Mackintosh.

“We are delighted and proud to be the only Scottish venue hosting this show, which reaffirms our dedication to bringing the best touring shows in the world to Edinburgh.”

• The Phantom of the Opera, The Playhouse, Greenside Place, until October 20, £19.50-£51.50, 08448-713 014, www.atgtickets.com/edinburgh

PHANTOM: FACTS AND FIGURES

• The Phantom of the Opera is one of the world’s largest touring productions with a cast of 37, orchestra of 14 and a technical and creative team of 29.

• It takes 21 45ft trailers to move the production from one venue to the next.

• There are 44 candles in the Masquerade Ball scene.

• The chandelier weighs just over half a tonne.

• There are 632 individual strings of beads on the chandelier.

• There are ten loads of washing per show and more than 10kg of washing powder and 15 litres of fabric conditioner is used in each city.

• It takes four hours of ironing per show to get the costumes ready.

• Christine’s masquerade dress has over 4000 Swarovski crystals on it, which are all applied by hand.