‘Everything you see on the stage is a manifestation of love,” says Jonathan Roxmouth with a big smile. Roxmouth plays the lead role in the world-tour production of The Phantom of the Opera, which is due to land in Israel August 12, for 24 performances at the Opera House in Tel Aviv. The musical masterpiece, which had won numerous awards, will be performed in Israel for the first time.
Based on Gaston Leroux’s gothic horror novel, The Phantom of the Opera is a play within a play, set in the 19th century Paris Opera House. A mysterious deformed musical genius known only as “The Phantom” has become an urban legend among members of the Opera’s company. When he becomes obsessed with the beauty of a young soprano – Christine – the Phantom makes her his musical protégé. But he is unaware of her love for Raoul, the wealthy benefactor of the Opera House, and his obsession sets the scene for dramatic events where jealousy, madness and passions explode on stage.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most famous musical, written for soprano Sarah Brightman, is the longest-running show on Broadway, having celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. The production now coming to Israel is an exact replica of the original Broadway show, in English, complete with replicas of the sets, costumes, lighting, orchestration, choreography – the works. The production team worked for two years to achieve this extraordinary result and to be able to take it on tour.
“You really need to be heartless to not love this amazing love story,” says Roxmouth. “What is there not to love? It is the greatest love story of all time,” he declares.
Roxmouth, who lives in South Africa, is a member of an international cast of singers, musicians and dancers, as well as dozens of backstage production workers that put aside their lives in order to participate in the 2019 world tour.
Indeed, the story of Phantom is heartbreaking, but what makes this play such a success is the combination of the mesmerizing memorable music, the excellent lyrics, and the beautiful set and costumes. In short, this show provides everything to make this “night at the opera” unforgettable.
The scenes are breathtaking – from Phantom’s candlelit lair, to the scene on the Opera House’s roof with its angel statue, there’s the grand staircase during “Masquerade” and of course the grand chandelier looming over the stage. It’s a complete experience that grabs the audience hearts and doesn’t let go.
ROXMOUTH, WHO performed the role of Phantom in his hometown of Johannesburg, says this production is the best he has seen yet.
“I still have to pinch myself,” he says. “It was a dream role of mine ever since I first saw the show. Every night, when I come on that boat and the audience gasps and they whisper, ‘Oh there he is,’ it is so weird to think – yes, I am actually doing it,” he continues. “To lead a company that is so amazing – I have never seen this show sung, danced and look this way – it’s a gift in so many ways. I hope to never forget it.”
“It is a show about love,” says Roxmouth. “It was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber for Sarah Brightman because he loved her. This show is the most unashamed romantic show you’ll ever see. At no point do we apologize for how romantic the show is and at no point do we shy away from it, at no point do we think, ‘Oh, let’s tone it down a bit.’ This is all about love and it makes your heart feel as if it is two sizes too big for your body. There is something so innately human about this show, because wherever it goes, there is the same reaction because love is a universal language – or at least it should be. The more you peel the layers of this play away, the more you see how brilliant it is and how beautiful it is in terms of what it is based on.”
This production of The Phantom of the Opera is true in every detail to the original Broadway production – the sets and costumes are ravishing, the music performed by live orchestra and singers – as beautiful as can be and the talented cast brings out Webber’s ingenious music at its best.
“It is a feast,” brags Roxmouth – and he is right. “What you see on the stage – between the costumes and the set – and what you hear between the orchestrations. The reactions everywhere are the same, the audiences hold their collective breath at the same places. When Phantom sings ‘Music of the Night,’ you can feel the audience with you all the time and when I finish on the word night and the lights go out you can hear the audience go ‘Ahhh... That is extraordinary.’”
Meghan Picerno, who plays Christine, says she is living her dream.
“It is The Phantom of the Opera – I mean what a pleasure to be able to play Christine – truly an honor and a privilege to play such an iconic role that was played for decades by such incredible female actors,” she says. “To be able to put on her skin every night is nothing short of extraordinary.”
Picerno was trained as an opera singer.
“For me as an opera singer – this is wonderful. There is so much tradition in the production of The Phantom. It reminds me a lot of actually being in the opera.”
IN THE PLAY, Christine is asked to give up a lot for her art. Picerno identifies with that aspect in her character’s life.
“I was asked many times how I balance my personal life with my career – I don’t. My life is my art. In that sense, I absolutely understand Christine. I live and breathe and eat performing. I am a stage animal. I can’t live without it. I love communicating with people and to be on the stage every night and to be on a world tour where you are touching people from different cultures. There is an understanding of what is going on no matter where people are from, what religion or race they are. They understand love, they understand abandonment, and they understand all of those basic human emotions. I can feel the audience; there is this exchange of emotions, and that is worth every sacrifice that I and all of my colleagues make.”
To modern audiences, some aspects of the story may seem problematic, especially the way the character of Christine is treated. But Picerno portrays Christine as a fighter.
“She grows through the show – from being a child, totally controlled by men, and at the end, she is the one who makes the decision, she takes her destiny in her own hands,” concludes Picerno.
Both actors are very excited about coming to Israel.
“Many of my friends have families in Israel,” says Roxmouth. “I have been invited to about six Shabbat dinners already. I can’t wait. The minute I said that I will be in Tel Aviv in August, all my friends said, “‘Oh, you are going to enjoy it so much.’”
Picerno can’t wait to come to Tel Aviv.
“It is my first time to play Christine and your audience has never seen it – it is so exciting. I have friends in Tel Aviv who are opera singers, and I heard the food is great. I better go on a diet,” she laughs.
The Phantom of the Opera is Andrew Lloyd Webber at his best. The lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe are just as wonderful, and I found myself humming them for days after leaving the theater in Manilla, where the world tour premiered in February this year. There are few musicals loved more than The Phantom of the Opera around the world, and this world tour production certainly meets the high expectations.
Get your tickets now.
The Phantom of the Opera world tour 2019, August 12 to August 30 at the Opera House, Tel Aviv.