Tuesday 11 June 2013

The Three Phantoms

Swan Theatre, High Wycombe


The Three Phantoms

The Three Phantoms features three of Britain’s finest musical theatre tenors together with outstanding support, performing an immaculately drilled whirl through many familiar show tunes, plus a few surprises too, from Broadway and the West End.

Emerging onto the stage in immaculately tailored light grey suits with purple tie and handkerchiefs and all of a uniform height, one could be excused for mistaking the Phantoms for a Virgin Atlantic cabin crew, albeit a crew whose performances are nothing less than Upper Class. In this outing, the trio comprises Earl Carpenter who conceived the show, Matthew Cammelle and Stephen John Davis. Each introduces himself with a solo, of which Davis’ Mr Cellophane from Chicago was a particular treat. With voice and acting in sweet synchronicity, Davis brilliantly extracts the complex humour and pathos that Kander and Ebb wove into the number. Alistair Barron as a supporting tenor joins the Phantoms for an exquisite Maria from West Side Story, the arrangement of the number broken down into a four part harmony being the first of some truly memorable moments.

A Phantom must have his Christine and thus soprano Rebecca Caine is introduced half way through act one. Whilst her dazzlingly tailored red evening gown, amongst the purple tinted men, continued only the briefest of hints towards the sassy Virgin Atlantic colour scheme, her outfit exuded nothing if not refined understated majesty. Not only is Caine one of the few singers in theatre to boast a classical opera training, but her enchanting features belie her considerable experience. She created Cosette in Les Miserables, played Christine opposite Michael Crawford's Phantom and went on to create that role in Canada opposite Colm Wilkinson. Caine gives a fine interpretation to I Could Have Danced All Night and accompanied by Annette Yeo and Mandy Whatsham Dunstall, the rarely heard Make Him Mine from The Witches of Eastwick proves another magical moment.

With an eye to the practicalities of a gruelling tour schedule, the music of the night has been pared down to Anthony Gabriele, musical director, on piano with a beautifully arranged cello accompaniment from Yvonne Marie Parsons. Gabriele has performed with the show since its inception and his understanding of each of the songs’ subtleties and sweet spots complements the singers like a fine wine matching gastronomy. Act one closes with a medley from Les Miserables commencing with Gabriele leaving his piano to conduct the seven voices (eight, including Parsons who downs her bow to sing) in a sublime a-capella version of  I Dreamed A Dream. The vocal beauty of this particular arrangement is breathtaking and the show should be seen if for no other reason than to experience quite what the human voice is capable of in this one song.

The Ensemble

Act two’s highlights include Earl Carpenter’s take on Matilda’s The Hammer. His Trunchbull is a cleverly crafted grotesque and it is surely only a matter of time before the RSC hire him to perform the loathsome headmistress. In a tribute to other shows based on or around Gaston Leroux’s Phantom Of The Opera, Matthew Cammelle gives a soaring Til I Hear You Sing from Love Never Dies, making one wish  for that show's return and as her solo finale, a bejewelled Rebecca Caine performs Think Of Me, hitting those glorious final stanzas with a controlled magnificence that sparked a  mini standing ovation.

The Three Phantoms is probably the finest collection of songs from the shows to be found on tour. Whilst the programme has a few oddities (three numbers from Spamalot is possibly too many), it remains packed with favourites and the production values that surround the evening are faultless. The set is simply but stylishly staged, beautifully lit and the sound is perfectly balanced. Above all the show presents four international stars of musical theatre whose talents are incomparable. Should The Three Phantoms descend upon your town, don’t miss them.

Touring until July 6

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