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Otaki Civic Theatre - Present Phantom
August 24, 2019
By Penelope Haines


Fall under the spell of the Phantom!

The Phantom of the Opera is one of the world's most loved musicals, having all the elements audiences look for: extravagant costumes and sets, danger, intrigue, dancing, singing, bits of comedy, and intense drama.

This is an ambitious production for the Otaki Players Society and they carry off a complex piece of theatre admirably well. Directed by Teresa Sullivan, with Tracey Orchard as the Production Manager, Graham Orchard as Musical Director and Jacqui Simpson as Choreographer, this is a seasoned team, and their experience shows in the values of this production.

Andrea King and Tracy Wills-Wright assist respectively as Musical Director and Choreographer.

Colin Taylor conducts a strong and capable orchestra. Situated in front of the stage, it is a pleasure to be able to watch the orchestra at work.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's score, with its catchy melodies and lyrical solos, blends seamlessly with Charles Hart's libretto. Based on the Gaston Leroux novel of the same name, it's the story of a love-crazed, disfigured genius who lives in the catacombs of the Paris Opera. He is the Phantom, who for his own purposes, has been terrorizing those who work there.

The 19th century period spectacle, scenic legerdemain, soaring melodies and exceptional singing are all at the service of an involving and piquantly offbeat love story.

Much of the credit goes to the stars.

Ben Wakefield is the eponymous Phantom. His powerful voice and acting are well suited to the part. It's a difficult role, for the Phantom, vindictive, malevolent, self-serving and ruthless, is, by any measure, a monster. Ben manages to show us a more complex character - his is a charming monster, with pain and passion hidden beneath the mask.

Hannah Chisholm's Christine Daaé is lovely. Her voice is exceptional, handling the complex music effortlessly. Her transition from fragile ingenue to mature woman able to conquer the Phantom by the power love is convincing and moving.

Raoul, played by Dominic Van Den Burg, is a perfect partner for Christine. Their voices balance well and blend together harmoniously in a couple of lovely arias.

The part of Carlotta, the resident diva, is played with magnificent gusto by Mary Flemmer. She steals the show every time she is on stage – her powerful voice and comic acting providing a great counterpoint to the complex emotions of the three principals.

She is ably abetted in this by Harlan Te Wiata as Piangi.

More comic relief is provided by Lauren Ford-Jones and Petra Rasmussen as the two beleaguered Theatre Managers. Their varied reactions to the numerous missives received from the Phantom, drew several laughs from the audience.

Jessica Clough and Lydia McIvor play, respectively, Madame Giry and her daughter Meg. Jessica is well known to audiences of local theatre on the Kapiti Coast.

Jessica's Mme Giry clearly expresses her compromised position. She is loyal to the theatre, while knowing a good deal more than is prudent about the origins and nature of the Theatre Ghost currently terrifying the cast and crew.

Lydia's Meg is young, curious, enthusiastic, charming and shrewd - an excellent foil for her friend, the credulous and impressionable Christine Daaé.

The ensemble are for the most part experienced players, supplemented with some new faces and the young ballet dancers could have stepped from a Degas painting. The work and dedication all of them have put into this production is clear. Whether as players in the onstage opera, or an angry mob out for vengeance, they bring energy and vitality to their roles.

A simplified set, designed by Dave Timperley, provides scope for the performers, and cleverly integrates elements we've come to expect – the boat on the lake; the underground chambers and the special effects.

Special mention must be made of the wonderful costumes and those who designed and developed them. The wardrobe department have outdone themselves with the variety and beauty of the gowns. I suspect some of the quick costume changes would have been very tricky to manage!

The make-up team did an excellent job – the Phantom looked genuinely spooky, while the rest of the stars shone in their various roles.

Lighting and Sound are in the experienced hands of Geoff Rose and Stu Clarke.

This is a very good production and an enjoyable night out. No matter how many times you have seen a performance of The Phantom of the Opera, mark this one on your calendar as a must see show.

Amanda W (added 48 weeks ago)
I went to see it with my family on the last night and had an amazing time! I absolutely loved it. Could definately pass off as a professional show from West End and Broadway! rnA lot of my friends and people I knew from school were a part of it so I wanted to support them and see there amazing work. Also, I've grown up with Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals so my family are huge fans of his musicals. So it was a win win for us as it's one of our favourites and acquantances were in it!rnIt was also my first time seeing Phantom live and seeing the full story and I'm now a huge fan of the beautiful story!rnOnce again, it was absolutely fantastic and just mesmorizing to watch. Everyone did so well and really delved into the charm and spirit of this beautiful show. Andrew Lloyd Webber would be very proud!rnKa pai to everyone involved! Can't wait to see what Otaki Players will do next year.
Chrissy (added 48 weeks ago)
I travelled from Wanagnui to see the show with my cousin, who is Ben's mother in law !!rnThe show was amazing, wow, wow !! A credit to everyone involved. I saw the show in Auckland 20 years ago and this show was equally as good !!! Well done !!!!
Helen D (added 49 weeks ago)
Great review and totally agree. Our first time an an Otaki Players production and based on these performances it won’t be our last. We were wondering if this show could be pulled off by a local group but wow - we were blown away by the whole production. Loved it! Well done to all involved!!
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