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Student Blog: The Phantom of the Orchestra

He's here: the Phantom of the Orchestra!

Student Blog: The Phantom of the Orchestra

When the chandelier first sparks to life in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, audiences are majestically transported to 1881 as the orchestra thunders the Phantom's motif. Other than the chandeliers crash at the end of Act 1 and the first visit to the Phantom's lair beneath the opera house, the most memorable element of this production is the mysterious, musical motif of the phantom. However, the chilling feeling associated with this motif may no longer be the same when The Phantom of the Opera returns to the West End in June.

It was recently announced that the new production will reduce the orchestra from 27 musicians to only 14; this is nearly a 50% reduction. Not only will this decrease the grandiose of the music, but it also will put talented musicians out of work from dream jobs. Even though it has been confirmed that the Broadway production will return will a full orchestra, theatre fans across the world are expressing concerns with Cameron Mackintosh's decision to cut the orchestra down. Less instruments means less natural sound, and more reliance on technology. Can new musical technology be just as spectacular as natural sound? We will have to wait until June to find out.

Before this orchestral decision, there was already widespread hesitation to the reimagining of the original London production of The Phantom of The Opera since Cameron Mackintosh's new touring productions have not been met with great acclaim. The new touring productions have drastically reduced the musical's set which consequently has reinvented the choreography and blocking of the show. Many fans of the original production reject the tour since it strips the show of most of its magic. For instance, the rising and falling of the chandelier has become less prevalent, and the chandelier received a new design. It can be inferred that if Cameron Mackintosh's new London production of the musical will mimic his new touring productions, fans will once again be disappointed. The reduction of the orchestra will only disappoint fans more and lead to a reduction in ticket sales.

Cameron Mackintosh has defended his decision since he believes that musicians should not expect to work the same job forever and there will still be spectacle in the new orchestrations. However, I personally believe he comes off rather arrogant when he stated, "I have spent 50 years delivering the highest-quality musicals this country has ever seen and I'm not about to stop now." I agree Mackintosh has created some of the best productions, but he has shown a superiority complex that is not pretty for publicity. Nevertheless, I am eager to see what he truly has in store, and for the sake of this incredible work, I hope his words hold true.

Although I am eager to see the new changes to Her Majesty's Theatre and the production itself, I do not agree with Mackintosh's decision to cut many brass, percussion, and string instruments from the orchestra. This will only increase competition in the job market and demonstrate a false belief to young musicians that musicians are not well-respected in the theatre industry. Mackintosh and the producing team should reconsider their orchestral decision in order to benefit the growth of musicians in the theatre industry and conserve the splendor of the show's iconic music. Otherwise, Mackintosh may become the phantom of the orchestra.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Blake Velick