Her Majesty's Theatre, London SW1
Opened 9 October, 1986; reviewed December, 1991

The show that finally elevated Andrew Lloyd Webber from a composer into a genre, and the first major example of the now-perfected marketing technique: release singles to seep into popular consciousness well in advance, so punters come away from it with the illusion of memorableness. Phantom contains three tunes; the rest are just Andy's standard chord-progressions – even the numerous pastiches afforded by the setting eventually subside into bog-standard Lloyd Webber.

The plot, while truer to the original novel than any screen version, is frequently subordinated to the spectacle – and for a musical to lack not just a finale, but an ending of any kind, is a major jar. Maria Björnson's design cleverly exaggerates the theatre's decor, but the whole show is like Heinz baby food: high production standards and sometimes exotic flavourings, but anything you can get your teeth into has been processed right out.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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