Review: Phantom of the Opera at Pendle Hippodrome Theatre

A standing ovation was never more deserved than at the end of a fantastically dramatic performance at Pendle Hippodrome Theatre.

Pendle Hippodrome Youth Theatre's stars in "The Phantom of the Opera".
Pendle Hippodrome Youth Theatre's stars in "The Phantom of the Opera".

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s dark story of the mysterious but deeply troubled phantom who haunts the Paris Opera House was vividly brought to life by a group of amazing young people.

Aged from 11 to 20 these performers, from the Hippodrome’s Youth Theatre, mesmerised a 400-strong audience on Wednesday as the Hippodrome became the Pendle Opera House, a dark, brooding haunted place. Where the sets, the lighting, amazing effects, brilliant costumes, 22-strong orchestra and these wonderfully gifted young people did Lord Webber’s powerful story justice most excellently.

The drama of his music played by an outstanding orchestra under the baton of musical director Lisa Manley, was matched only by the drama of the whole production - the result of 12 months in the making.

Director Howard G. Raw with his vast experience in amateur theatre and 40 years teaching drama, brought out the very best in the whole company. For this was teamwork personified.

While the cast rehearsed, the production team faced the massive challenge of putting together a complex technical show, and all rose to the occasion. One of the iconic scenes from this musical, when the phantom’s anger causes a huge chandelier to crash onto the stage, was frighteningly replicated; and when the candlelit phantom’s lair came into view it was breathtaking. Such effort and precision had gone into the making of the most expensive production the group has ever staged.

18-year-old Ronan Pilkington was a phenomenal phantom, hauntingly scary as, besotted with opera singer Christine, he carried her off to his lair in the dingy Paris underworld. Ronan mastered the difficult numbers such as “The Music of the Night” in an outstanding performance. Jade Brett was Christine, whose beautiful strong voice flowed around the theatre, another outstanding performance, as this tragic tale drew to its climax. The other principals were all deserving of the highest praise. Marcus Geldard, Jessica Balderstone, Laura Schofield, Sophie Counsell, Lewis Bolton, George Bury, Ben Fontaine, Neil Salway, Ryan Sparks, Leighton Hunt and Morgan Hughes all belied their years, as did the excellent chorus and ballet dancers whose atmospheric scenes were quite awesome.