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There is something disturbing when sweetness, innocence and beauty are corrupted, and the one who should have been equal to the task of saving the girl can’t.

The Phantom of the Opera is, at first sight, the classic story of the handsome hero, the nasty villain and the heroine who succumbs to his power. But the genius of Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber gives us something different – the power of love, powerful enough to defeat evil.

Some comic relief is provided for us by the opera company and its hangers-on. There to assault the eyes was the grand set and the gorgeous costumes, and to assault the ears was grand singing from an overweight and overcooked prima donna, Carlotta (Mary Flemmer). When she is unable to perform, an understudy is found in Christine (Hannah Chisholm), a lovely, lively slip of a girl who had been in the chorus. But most significantly she is not likely to be any competition for Carlotta. However, she turns out to have a voice that will melt the coldest heart.

Further comedy is provided by a collection of gawky characters who are either in the company or on the fringe as owners.

When the phantom (Ben Wakefield), who lives a lonely existence in the dark depths beneath the opera house hears that beautiful singing, he is stirred. He must possess her and she is putty in his hands. She cannot resist the music of the night. The sound of The Phantom of the Opera is Here was intended to chill, and it did.

In the end, her beau, Raoul (Dominic Van Den Berg), for all his good breeding, was no match for the phantom’s power. But it was the power of love, the love of this once timid slip of a girl that  overcame. She saved her hesitant hero from the hand of evil.

And, not only that but she defused that monster’s evil.

Ōtaki Players excelled themselves yet again with this production. The collection of artists brought together was extraordinary.

Where do you start? Ben Wakefield played the phantom. What an incredible voice he has, and an acting ability to match. When he threw himself onto the “throne of death” one might call it, there was naked despair – a truly dramatic moment.

That ability to act could also be seen in Hannah Chisholm, a Kāpiti local, who was Christine Daae. Hers was the difficult call of taking command in an impossible situation and winning. And she was believable.

Could it be true that Dominic van den Berg is still at school? It is to be hoped that he finds more roles on the stage; he has a future here with his singing, acting and stage presence.

There were some familiar faces and names among the cast, all well seasoned and good. One name that will be familiar to only some is that of Harlan Te Wiata. His great uncle was none other than Inia Te Wiata, a thrilling performer for those of us who saw him in our younger days, and from Ōtaki.

A show of any sort is only as good as the direction. Teresa Sullivan has done a superb job here. What we saw and heard reflected that in the confident performances by all on stage.

Graham Orchard found himself with a full orchestra this time, as befits this particular show. His is a driving force in Ōtaki Players, and a great deal of credit must go to him for its ambition and success.

Those who designed and made the costumes must be given a special mention. The dresses for the women and ornate garb of the time on the men were nothing less than wonderful. Excess was “in” at that time apparently.

The lasting memory of The Phantom of the Opera is the wonderful music and the magnificent voices that sang in Ōtaki that night.

Players excel again with Phantom show



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