THREE PHANTOMS AT THE WOLVERHAMPTON GRAND THEATRE
Performance Reviewed - Saturday 14 September 2013
Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
Musical gala evenings and touring concerts have continued to prove popular around the country in recent years, with this weekend seeing the arrival of Three Phantoms at the Wolverhampton Grand, bringing with it a splash of operatic flair and style along with the impressive vocals and (mostly) superlative line-up of hits and favourites from the musicals.
Compromising principally of Matthew Cammelle, Stephen John Davis and Glyn Kerslake, who form the eponymous trio, the company also features Canadian theatrical leading lady (and original Les Miserables Cosette) Rebecca Caine, supporting performers Annette Yeo, Mandy Watsham Dunstall and the comically put-upon Alistair Barron, and on stage orchestration from alternating cellists Laura Anstee and Jessica Cox (Cox being on stage for the reviewed performance) and pianist/conductor Anthony Gabriele.
What became apparent immediately with Three Phantoms was the genuine sense of camaraderie, spirit and passion amongst the assembled team of performers, with none of the interludes and interspersed dialogue feeling forced or perfunctory. There are the expected anecdotes and musical theatre quips, but these are frequently tongue-in-cheek and in places quite wittily incorporated into the music itself, the quite literal crescendo of one of Caine’s Phantom of the Opera musings being a particular highlight. With an easy, relaxed energy that is nonetheless complemented with rich vocals and notably impressive staging and lighting design, the whole affair turns out to be a surprisingly elegant and winning combination that thankfully never slips into self-importance or routine.
Naturally, song selection is the make or break for a show which does not have the luxury of narrative or character to engage an audience, and here leant extra weight by dint of performing in a theatre and with songs an audience is so accustomed to having contextualised within the body of a shows plot and own musical structure. For the most part, Three Phantoms’ delves into an impressively varied slew of shows both old and new alike, and should be commended for not always defaulting to the most predictable or safe numbers from each. For instance, upon the mention of recent success story Wicked, ones mind instantly defaults to staples ‘Defying Gravity’, ‘The Wizard and I’, ‘For Good’ and ‘Popular’, whereas Three Phantoms charismatically offered ‘What Is This Feeling?’. Similarly, extra credit should go to the inclusions of more comedic numbers from Spamalot, including a wonderful collaborative take on ‘The Song That Goes Like This’ and even a thoroughly unexpected but very welcome inclusion of ‘You And Me (But Mostly Me)’ from The Book of Mormon. And of course whilst it should be noted that naturally song selection will vary over the course of the tour, on the whole there was a generally much more robust and less typical approach to song selection than other similar shows of this nature.
That being said, there were still plenty of crowd-pleasing seminals, from My Fair Lady’s ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’, La Cage Aux Folle’s ‘I Am What I Am’, an Act I closing medley from Les Miserables through to, naturally, a selection from Phantom of the Opera to close, which itself was prefaced by one of the show’s most noteworthy and welcome deviations - a selection of songs from less prolific musical interpretations of the original Phantom novel. In the performance reviewed there were a selection of moments where the musical and artistic choices were somewhat suspect - for instance a more choral rendition of Les Miserables ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ was pretty and beautifully sung but robbed the song of the isolated, haunting despair that is so key to it’s genius, and the decision to open with Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ got the whole show off on an extremely misjudged note that was completely at odds with what followed and was unanimously derided by everyone I spoke to afterward, both critics and public alike.
Overall though, there is plenty to recommend with Three Phantoms, a classy, enjoyable journey through the musicals, including some numbers and productions that will likely be unfamiliar. Naturally this is an experience catered to musical theatre enthusiasts, and even more-so than some of its ‘safer’ competitors due to it’s admirably less conventional programming. The talented troupe of singers and musicians all do wonderful jobs and should be additionally commended for not only infusing the evening with a charm and personality of its own, but also practically all of them having to take on a wide breadth and scope of musical eclecticism. By the time the titular trio take to the stage for the understated and delicate finale, odds are they will have already weaved their own phantom-esque magic having done their own enchanting job of demonstrating the power of the music of the night.
Click HERE to go to the Three Phantoms website for more information on the show itself and for details of its tour dates and locations.
Press tickets for this performance of Three Phantoms were provided courtesy of the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre directly. (A)musings Media gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation.