THE musical The Phantom of the Opera is a global phenomenon. It has had professional productions in 151 cities worldwide since it premiered in London in 1986 and has been seen by more than 130million people.
With total estimated gross receipts of more than $5.6billion, it is the most financially successful entertainment event to date, outgrossing the top movie earners in what is generally the most popular entertainment medium.
Rights for non-professional productions were released this year, with the first being in Melbourne in May.
Newcastle company Metropolitan Players will stage the NSW non-professional premiere at the Civic Theatre next Wednesday, with a two-week season following.
The appeal of The Phantom of the Opera lies largely in its song score by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricists Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, and its story, drawn from the classic Gaston Leroux novel of the same name and set in and below the Paris Opera House in the 19th century.
The Phantom is a deformed composer who hides from the world in opera house tunnels, while writing an opera based on the exploits of Don Juan.
He is attracted to a young soprano called Christine Daae and, unseen, coaches her vocally.
He also generates accidents such as falling scenery to frighten the opera’s star soprano, in an effort to have the management offer Christine a starring role. But a young French count, Raoul, is also attracted to Christine, and when the Phantom observes them kissing on the opera house roof his jealousy leads to the kidnapping of Christine.
The show’s songs include The Music of the Night, in which the Phantom serenades Christine, All I Ask of You, where Raoul expresses his love for Christine, Masquerade, sung by the performers at a masquerade ball, and Think of Me, in which Christine shows the Opera House owners her vocal talents.
The 46-member Metropolitan Players cast is headed by Chris Maxfield as the Phantom, Caitlin Harris as Christine, Daniel Stoddart as Raoul, Whitney Erickson as prima donna Carlotta, Malcolm Young and Ian Crouch as the new owners of the Opera House, Ann Hartsuyker-Accardi as ballet mistress Madame Giry, Chloe Jeffrey-Williams as her daughter, Meg, and Elliott Walker as the principal opera tenor, Piangi.
The production team is led by director Julie Black (in her 30th year of staging Metropolitan’s shows), musical director Greg Paterson (conducting a 28-member orchestra), choreographer Kirby-Leigh Coker, and costume designers Bev Fewins and Steven Harrison, who have produced hundreds of costumes.
The show’s Newcastle staging attracted performers from beyond Newcastle.
Caitlin Harris, for example, while born in Newcastle now lives in Sydney.
Her character, Christine, is far more interesting than the ‘‘weak, innocent flower’’ that many people see her as, she says.
‘‘There is a strength to her that has to be brought out,’’ she said.
Chris Maxfield, as the Phantom, regrets that his character doesn’t get much chance to work with the dynamic vocal ensemble.
Still, as he says with a shrug, that also happened to him last year when he played the miser Fagin in Metropolitan’s Oliver!, winning a CONDA for his performance.
‘‘It’s good to be playing off Caitlin and Daniel Stoddart,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve been able to develop my character in that way.’’
The Phantom of the Opera plays at the Civic Theatre from August 28 to September 7, with performances on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, at 8pm, plus 2pm Saturday matinees. Tickets: $55, concession $45. Next Wednesday’s opening night is a charity benefit performance for Ronald McDonald House and the Samaritans, with tickets only available from the two charities: Ronald McDonald House, 49855683; Samaritans, 49607100. Buy tickets for other performances from Civic Ticketek, 49291977.