How do you make a performance of the world’s most famous musical even more memorable? Set the stage on the most famous harbour.
A turbulent tale of love, jealousy, murder and mayhem, it’s fitting that The Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running musical in Broadway history, will be staged in what’s surely its most dramatic location to date. On 25 March, the latest interpretation of Gaston Leroux’s novel opens at the purposebuilt floating Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, with the Opera House, Bridge and city skyline as its backdrop.
Director Simon Phillips says the production, complete with a massive cast under conductor Guy Simpson, will have its own heartbeat but audiences can expect the show’s defining moments, including the falling chandelier. “It thrilled everyone when Phantom was first staged,” says Phillips. “Now imagine it with the assistance of a couple of 20-metre high cranes!”
While the venue, bobbing alongside Mrs Macquarie’s Point, presents a unique set of challenges, Phillips is primed. “Flown cloths [suspended above the stage] were used to depict various settings in traditional theatrical style but those become massive spinnakers in the wind. Similarly, classical ballet executed in pointe shoes isn’t appropriate on a sloping stage in wet weather. Adjustments will be made.”
Simpson is ready to go and equally pragmatic. “I’ll be with the orchestra under the stage so I’ll have to watch the actors’ faces through a video screen but Andrew Lloyd Webber’s well-loved score will remain the same. It’s a difficult show at the best of times and the harbour adds more challenges but it’ll be an unforgettable evening.” With fireworks at the finale, he’s not exaggerating.
The Phantom of the Opera on Sydney Harbour is playing from 25 March to 24 April.
Make it a weekend...
Experience a little Sydney history by booking a stay at the CBD Art Deco masterpiece Kimpton Margot Sydney (the Primus hotel in a previous life). Kick off with sundowners and bar bites at the rooftop, poolside bar – just leave yourself 15 minutes for a taxi to the show. If you’re after something more substantial and in the Quay quarters (to be closer to the venue), make your way to Hinchcliff House, a heritage sandstone former wool store where you can choose from all-day casual at ground-floor Grana, an elevated menu at fine-diner Lana on the first floor or a glass of sparkling post-Phantom at moody basement bar Apollonia.
(From top) The Phantom of the Opera stars (from left) Joshua Robson as the Phantom, Georgina Hopson as Christine Daaé and Callum Francis as Raoul; conductor Guy Simpson; and director Simon Phillips. Image credit: Hon Boey. Jason Loucas. Daniel Boud.