Andrew Lloyd Webber’s globally celebrated musical “The Phantom of the Opera” has taken the stage at The Arena Riyadh until December 5. In partnership with Broadway Entertainment Group and under the Royal Commission for Riyadh City’s supervision, this captivating performance premiered on October 14th and is now set to become the longest-running theatrical show ever to grace the Saudi capital.
Inspired by Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, the musical transports the audience to 1830s Paris. It revolves around the enigmatic Phantom, a musical prodigy, who resides in the shadows of the Paris Opera House. His life takes an unexpected turn when he meets Christine, a captivating soprano, and becomes her mentor, nurturing her exceptional talents. Unbeknownst to Christine, the Phantom finds himself falling for her, but she has already given her heart to Raoul, a young nobleman and patron of the opera. The result is a whirlwind of emotions, ensuring a gripping experience for the audience.
This iconic musical has clinched more than 70 international theater awards, including seven Tony Awards during its record-breaking run on Broadway and four Olivier Awards in London’s West End.
We at Destination had the chance to speak to the amazing cast of the musical and they each had something interesting to say.
Jasper, The Opera and Broadway advisor for the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, shared insights about bringing this renowned musical to Saudi Arabia.
As Jasper explained, introducing “Phantom of the Opera” to Riyadh aligns perfectly with Vision 2030 and the Quality of Life Program. The city is committed to enhancing cultural and entertainment experiences for both its residents and future visitors. The goal is to eliminate the need for people to travel abroad to cities like Paris, London, or New York to experience top-tier entertainment. Riyadh aims to change this landscape by becoming a hub for world-class productions.
He also mentioned that “Phantom of the Opera” stands as the world’s most popular musical, captivating audiences for nearly four decades and seen by millions around the globe. While productions have graced stages worldwide, it’s a first for Riyadh and Saudi Arabia, marking a significant milestone in Riyadh’s quest to offer world-class entertainment.
In addition, any concerns about any narrative or cultural adaptations are put to rest by Jasper, where he mentioned that the production remains faithful to the original narrative, music, and lyrics created by the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber. There are no changes in these aspects. It’s vital to emphasize that this Riyadh production offers the same exceptional experience as in other global venues.
We also had the chance to interview Liz who is the CEO of Broadway Entertainment Group and the producer of “Phantom of the Opera,”. With over 25 years of experience in the industry, she provides a unique perspective on this historic occasion.
She began with revealing that she has lived in the region for a decade, giving a personal touch to her role as a producer. Her experience spans several globally acclaimed musicals, from “Beauty and the Beast” to “Shrek” and “Wizard of Oz,” which was even performed in Saudi Arabia.
In the interview she discussed the significance of this production in Riyadh, pointing out that the Royal Commission of Riyadh City invited their team to create history. Riyadh’s “Phantom of the Opera” production features an unprecedented 60 performances, making it the longest run on any tour. It’s also the premiere of this remarkable tour, marking an extraordinary moment for the city.
In addition, she touched on the production’s fresh perspective, highlighting how it has evolved over the years. While the script and score remain faithful to the original, technological advancements and enhancements in sound, lighting, and more have allowed for a more sophisticated touring version.
Towards the end, Liz emphasizes the power of live entertainment, art, and the emotion it evokes. She encourages everyone to experience the magic of live theater and musicals, highlighting that it’s something you must witness to truly understand.
Ewan started with expressing his gratitude for the warm welcome in Saudi Arabia, where he’s visiting for the first time. He acknowledged the unique opportunity and excitement that surrounds the production’s Middle East debut. With a personal passion for “The Phantom of the Opera,” Hughen reveals that he’s a devoted fan of the show and appreciates it as a “theater kid on the inside.” This love for the musical laid the foundation for his creative journey.
He proceeded to describe the creative process of reimagining the production. He and his team sought to pay homage to the original while adding a fresh perspective. They aimed to create something new and different that would captivate audiences, emphasizing the importance of staying true to Gaston Leroux’s original story.
The team introduced a variety of influences to breathe new life into the choreography. Elements like the Ballets Russes’ influence brought a unique flavor to the production. A notable change included the transformation of the “Prima Donna” number from a small ensemble into a grand company performance, featuring revolving stages and falling petals.
The creative team also collaborated closely with composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and designer Stephen Brimson Lewis. They worked together to ensure that the costumes and choreography align with the production’s overall vision. The goal is to create a unified experience that conveys the same story through music, visuals, and movement.
Andrew started with sharing his creative journey, shedding light on the thought process behind the wardrobe design. To distinguish their production from the West End version, the team shifted the period to the turn of the century. This change allowed for sleeker silhouettes, which were essential to accommodate the large sets and practicalities of the performance. As a designer responsible for both set and costume, he emphasized the importance of creating a cohesive visual language that defines the show’s world. This dual role allows for a seamless integration of the set and costumes, ensuring that they complement each other.
He addressed the minimal adaptations made to the costumes for the Middle Eastern tour. These adjustments were primarily aimed at enhancing the visual appeal of the costumes without altering their authenticity. The timeless Victorian and Edwardian era aesthetics were preserved.
The synergy between choreography and wardrobe design is evident in all of Andrew’s works. He highlighted the challenges of creating costumes that not only look beautiful but also facilitated the dancers’ movements. Practicality and aesthetics coexist in a harmonious blend.
In additon, he revealed his approach to designing a show. He starts by creating the set design, shaping the world of the production. Then, he populates this world with characters, ensuring they fit seamlessly into the visual landscape
When asked about future projects, Andrew hinted at a few exciting prospects currently in the pipeline. While not revealing specifics, it leaves readers eager to discover what this talented designer will create next.
A member of the amazing team, John discussed the merging of cultures through the performance of ‘Phantom of The Opera’ in Saudi Arabia. He highlighted the humbling experience of introducing this internationally acclaimed production to a nation with rich cultural heritage. Despite the cultural differences, he believes that the universal musical language of ‘Phantom of The Opera’ transcends borders. He also, eagerly mentioned that he anticipates the audience’s unique response to the production in Saudi Arabia and is excited to share this beloved musical with the local community.
In addition, John reflected on the numerous exceptional pieces in the production, expressing his appreciation for iconic songs such as “Music of the Night,” “All I Ask of You,” “Wishing,” “Think of Me,” “Masquerade,” and the captivating final 20 minutes, which he regards as a pinnacle of musical theater composition.
Also a remarkable team member of ‘The Phantom of The Opera,’ Nadim shared his journey from portraying Raoul to fulfilling his childhood dream of embodying the enigmatic Phantom. Nadim’s insights into his portrayal and the fresh perspective he brings to the iconic role revealed his deep passion for theater.
When asked if he preferred playing the Phantom, Nadim wholeheartedly agrees. He described the role as one of the most iconic in theater history and expresses the privilege and responsibility of taking on this character. He also highlighted the need for each actor to infuse their interpretation into the role, making it their own.
Moreover, Nadim shed light on the unique approach of this production, emphasizing the focus on the Phantom’s human side. Rather than merely portraying a mysterious figure, the emphasis was on exploring his insecurities, desires, and lack of social interaction. Nadim strives to make the character relatable, balancing his dark and sympathetic aspects.
Georgia explained her fascination with the role of Christine, emphasizing its complexity and the scope for each actress to imbue their interpretation. She higlighted the beauty of witnessing different Christines, each offering a unique perspective while maintaining the core of the character. An essential aspect of Christine’s character development in the show, as Georgia highlighted, is her transformation from an innocent and naive young woman to a stronger, more empowered individual. Georgia’s portrayal centers around this growth, providing audiences with an inspirational journey. Her background in opera enhances the authenticity of Christine’s transformation, adding depth to her performance.
Georgia also shared her personal connection to Christine, describing how the role seems tailor-made for her. She expressed her deep love for the character and how effortlessly she fit into the role. It’s a dream come true for her to play Christine, and she hopes to continue portraying the character in the future.
She also mentioned that the portrayal of Christine is not just a role; it’s a reflection of herself. She infuses her own experiences into the character, particularly Christine’s journey towards strength and self-confidence. Her approach to the role highlights the importance of portraying authenticity and compassion on stage.
Dougie, who took on the role of Raoul in ‘The Phantom of The Opera,’ provides an intriguing look into his approach and experience.
He proceeded to talk about his journey portraying Raoul, a character that had been on his radar for quite some time. With an earlier stint covering Raoul and Phantom during the Greek production of the show, he brought in a fresh perspective to the role. As an actor stepping into the shoes of Raoul, Dougie’s main aim is to add his signature style. Drawing inspiration from various versions he has seen, he strives to carve out his interpretation of Raoul while preserving the character’s core essence.
Navigating Raoul’s role presents its own set of challenges. He touched upon the vocal intricacies of Raoul’s part, especially in group numbers, where he had to maintain precision while infusing his own style. The journey with this role has been swift due to his prior familiarity with the role and the production. With a natural inclination toward the debonair, Dougie aims to inject a bit of his signature style and cheekiness into Raoul. He enjoys embracing the period’s fashion and charm, which resonates with his personal taste.
The Phantom of the Opera” has taken the stage as a historic event, offering a captivating and faithful adaptation of the iconic musical. With innovative design and dedication to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece, this performance marks a cultural milestone, inviting audiences to embrace the magic of live theater. Riyadh’s production promises to be a truly unforgettable experience.