Three into one goes just fine

The Three Phantoms

Birmingham Hippodrome


SUNDAY nights at theatres are usually left dark or reserved for aging pop stars with Statocaster zimmer frames treading the nostalgia trail  mixed with clairvoyants finding  Aunty Nellie's spare teeth for someone in the third row.

So a sortie into the Sabbeth spotlight for the Hippodrome had to be a bit special and so it proved with a sort of Rat Pack for those with A levels.

The Three Phantoms are musical theatre stars in their own right but, to keep on the friendly side of the trade descriptions legislation, represent roughly a third of the Eriks - he is the Phantom bloke with the cut price mask is you are not personally acquainted -  when it comes to the Andrew Lloyd Webber version of The Phantom of the Opera.

Earl Carpenter, Matthew Cammelle and John Owen-Jones have donned the famed half mask around 3000 times between them out of the 10,000 or so performances of the show since it opened in London in October 1986 – and with Owen-Jones as the current Phantom their percentage is going up daily.

Add to those three current stars the wonderful Rebecca Caine and you are guaranteed a marvelous evening of music and song with plenty of humour and chats with the audience to boot.

Miss Caine, born in Canada and trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, is one of that rare breed who have sung in both opera and musical theatre and excelled in both.

She first appeared in the West End aged 19 in Oklahoma! But was appearing in Opera at Glyndebourne - now there's posh for you -  when she was invited by the Royal Shakespeare Company to create the role of Cosette in the 1985 opening of Les Misérables. Her link to the Phantoms, by the way, was her role as Christine in the original cast  Phantom, dhr wasn't just pulled in because she was free.


Complete with the excellent 21 piece Concert Philharmonic under musical director Anthony Gabriele, who has just completed three years as Phantom's London Musical Director, the show sports some of the aristocracy of musical theatre with John Owen-Jones arguably the current king.

He has just returned as Phantom after a stint as Jean Valjean in the touring production of Les Mis and still holds the record for the most consecutive performances as Erik with more than 1400 over almost four years.

His Till I Hear You Sing Once More from the Phantom sequel Love Never Dies, and the haunting Bring Him Home from Les Mis are among the highlights of the show. – both powerful songs which seem to take something out of the man voted the best Valjean ever - mid you he does put an awful lot into both songs.

Earl Carpenter, the director of the show, shows a real penchant for comedy which was in contrast to his last visit to the Hippodrome as the zealous and humourless policeman Javert chasing Jonh-Owen-Jones's Valjean in Les Mis.

The first half was workmanlike rather than uplifting with Cammelle providing I'm Martin Guerre and the trio in I'm All Alone from Spamalot and Maison des Lunes from Beauty & the Beast while Carpenter gave an emotional rendering of Race you to the Top  of the Morning from The Secret Garden with Owen-Jones contributing Kiss of the Spiderwoman.

Miss Caine's introduction came with I Hate Men from Kiss me Kate.

The second half opened with a Mary Poppins medley from the Orchestra  and the pace raelly picked up with a selection from Les Mis.

Carpernter opened with Stars followed by Cammelle and Miss Caine with Heart Full of Love  and Owen-Jones's  Bring Him Home raising hairs on necks.

But with a title like this the end has to be Erik and the depths of the Paris opera house starting with a selection of songs in earlier and later musical version of the 1910 novel of Gaston Leroux – a total currently approaching 30 and counting.

The history bit was interesting rather than inspiring although it did give a chance for Miss Caine to show her considerable operatic talents before joining the trio for a stunning version of Love Changes Everything with the show ending with the three Eriks and Music of the Night followed by a deserved standing ovation. 20-02-11

Roger Clarke


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