Album Review: The Phantom of the Opera (Highlights from the Original Canadian Cast)

“Our passion-play has now at last begun”

Despite being a London institution these days, I haven’t visited The Phantom of the Opera since moving to London more than a decade ago now and so I couldn’t tell you very much about the life it has had over the past 30 years or so (or indeed the show, it’s probably more like 20 since I last saw it).

And one of the fascinating things about picking up random theatrically-inclined CDs over the last wee while has been uncovering some of the history about the productions and plugging it into the more general theatrical knowledge that I’ve accumulated.

So whilst I knew Rebecca Caine was known for her Christine as a consequence of seeing her cabarets, I didn’t know that she started off her Phantom life as an alternate in the West End production before heading up the cast of the original Canadian production.

And I didn’t know that Colm Wilkinson originally workshopped the role of the Phantom but declined to take the role proper in favour of a little known show called Les Misérables (where his stage daughter was played by no other than Rebecca Caine!). His time to play the Phantom came a couple of years later in Toronto and having relocated his family in the process, has lived there ever since.

But to the matter in hand, this selected highlights of that Canadian production from 1990. I know there are strong opinions out there about favourites but it is hard to imagine the role of Christine being better sung than here. Caine’s assured control of her voice means that her soprano is supremely confident, the sometimes-bland ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ springs to new life under her touch and she more than holds up to duet partners on ‘All I Ask Of You’ and the iconic title track, this latter demonstrating the power throughout her considerable range.

I’m also a big fan of Wilkinson’s ‘Music of the Night’, in the parlance de nos jours he really makes it his own and entirely distinct from Michael Crawford’s interpretation, his deeper voice and greater emotional candour suiting the role more and as in his every interaction with Caine’s Christine, believably seductive – ‘Point of No Return’ is practically indecent. Byron Nease’s Raoul has a tendency to overexaggerate and thus loses warmth but Lyse Guerin’s Carlotta is a striking operatic presence. Those Canucks done good.

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