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Phantom of the Opera as presented by LOST (Light Opera Society of Tralee)


Performance Date 8th to 11th November –

Date attended 11th November 

I was certainly looking forward with much anticipation to my trip to Tralee for the Light Opera Society of Tralee’s production of The Phantom of The Opera.

I arrived to a lovely welcome from Ms Myra Blackwood , and furnished with the programme , I was looking forward to curtain up . I noticed some people welcoming the audience into the theatre dressed beautifully in red. They reminded me a little of Virgin Atlantic Air stewards. I thought it was lovely and a nice change to the normal. Well done Front of house and to the team in red whom I can only presume were cast members in costume.

The opening scene was promising , with a post event gathering auctioning off memorabilia from the Opera house where we were first introduced to an old age Raoul, and of course the famous chandelier was lifted for the first time . The chandelier was good with some great work backstage from Janna Foley and team to control the trajectory. There was little or no set, just a few of the ensemble together with Raoul but this wasn’t an issue for me as surely as the show progressed we would see the stage come alive and in parts it certainly did.

To put this production into an early context , it was an extremely talented cast with some beautiful quality voices, let down in parts by the production team.

Direction was the responsibility of Ms Grainne O’Carroll. I was surprised to see so many straight lines in ensemble scenes . A particular example that I cannot understand given its glamour and opportunity to wow an audience was the Masquerade ball. Literally a singular dark backdrop back stage was the only ‘set’ – I’m still not sure what it was. We are supposed to be in and around the plush staircase of the Opera House but this did not come across at all. The cast came in wearing face masks but I did not notice any particular costume extravagance. When the ensemble slowly gathered as the music played , we were looking at a moving choir , not a high class masquerade ball . There was a scene with three gravestones in which the Phantom hid whilst listening in on Christine and Raoul. These looked very basic and I just couldn’t understand why. It is a question I keep asking myself. Three Crosses made out to be tombstones in monotone grey with not a hint of associated artwork or creativity. I feel it is always the Directors ultimate responsibility to insist on certain standards and, where there were sets, apart from the Phantom’s Lair, the Labyrinth underground and Christine's bedroom – they were sub standard. Movement and chemistry between the principals was good in places but I feel that the talent of those onstage deserved so much more attention to detail. When you have such talent at your disposal , then magic can happen when a director spends considerable rehearsal time with them. I must question whether this was indeed the case.

The musical director in the programme was Ms Anna Connolly. Again, I must admit that I was somewhat confused . The show was visibly conducted by one of the keyboard players ( keyboard player #2) the other keyboard being Ms Connolly. However I did not see any indication that Ms Connolly was actually directing. The orchestra itself sounded very good with 13 pieces inclusive of keys. Not an easy task to conduct. I felt that in some numbers the tempo seemed a bit laboured. Experienced vocalists were running short of breath, notes cut short, breaths being taken mid sentences and I really did feel the strain on some vocals which I can only put down to tempo from the conductor. Performers were often left standing still in silence as they awaited their musical cue to arrive. If the musical tempo had been decided then surely something must happen to avoid these obvious stagnant on stage pauses . It is the Musical Director’s responsibility to do just that, direct. Where passion murder and love came into play, I just didn’t hear the orchestra follow with the same emotion. This is not a reflection on musicianship or abilities as the quality of the sound as mentioned was superb all round. The quality of the vocal principal singing varied from sub par ( due to miscasting ?) to incredibly good such was the variation. The chorus sounded very powerful and sang with gusto and clarity and indeed , as I mentioned earlier had I only been listening and not watching, then it was an incredibly well sung high quality vocal all round.

Bravo to Chorus Mistress Caitriona Fitzmaurice on sterling work with the chorus singing. You were Excellent and hard work at rehearsal was obvious in this department. It was a joy to listen to this chorus vocal.

Choreographer was Aileen Murphy and again I must say it was an opportunity to shine that was missed. Good safe choreography that could’ve shined in certain numbers. I keep referring to the Masquerade ball and once again I must. This number has so many moving parts, so many opportunities to shine, freezes , lighting effects , dance and acrobatics, mystery, magic and movement from the traditional to French exotic, but I saw none of this. Maybe my expectations were too high and I am being overly critical, however I always have to say it as I feel it and this was indeed the case. The choreography overall was good and well rehearsed .

The stage was well lit in most parts, and for those scenes where careful consideration had gone into sets - lighting was of the same high standard. Some stage right scenes needed a little more but this didn’t affect the performers. The Phantoms lair, organ, and mirror were lit very well, giving an air of mystery and creepiness and danger. The Labyrinth was particularly good. Some scenes were limited for sets and quite basic therefore lighting became more important and this was no more obvious than for example the scenes where Andre and Firman discussed in their ‘Office’. For these scenes a singular desk was rolled out, which the actors upstaged, to a singular black backdropped stage, but fully lit.

Sound by Shane Murphy was very good. There were some instances of crackling and some in-balance but these were thankfully rare. Every note and voice was heard clearly throughout and powerful high notes for example sounded superb throughout the theatre. Well done to Mr Murphy on sound.

With sets, I’ve mentioned the lack of consistency, Christines dressing room, the Phantom’s Lair and the underground Labyrinth ( where we see the boat ) were very well done. I really was impressed with the fluidity of the transition from Lair to labyrinth and the subsequent boat journey across the lake. It really was a beautifully created picture. Such great detail and attention given to these scenes. I just wish that this could have been replicated or even created elsewhere.

Costumes under Eileen O’Connell and Jean Farrell were well presented. As previously mentioned Masquerade could have been developed a bit more but re overall costuming – it was very good. Hair and makeup were excellent and the Phantoms Mask was most effective and visually looked well.

Marcus Nolan as the Phantom was very good indeed. As soon as he graced the stage I immediately felt that he knew his part very well and had total mastery of the vocal required. His vocal range was excellent, the higher range being very assured indeed. This allowed Mr Nolan to shine in his ‘big’ numbers. Make up was good and his posture throughout was excellent. The tone and clarity in delivery both vocally and acting was clear and very well executed. I really looked forward to Mr Nolan coming on stage Well done Mr Nolan on tackling and succeeding in portraying an excellent Phantom.

Christine was played by Siobhan Bustin. I’m a little conflicted here because Christine is such a challenging and tough vocal part and I felt that on the evening I attended Ms Bustin’s voice was maybe a little tired in places and some phrases were slightly out of breath, but overall it was a very good vocal performance. The high notes in Phantom of the Opera were very well sung and I was really looking forward to the very high note at the end. On the very note in question and at the precise moment, Christine turned her head a full 180 degrees to face backstage and the note was heard but not seen. Acting with Raoul and Phantom was assured and I just sense there is so much more to come from this actor. Overall a solid, vocal performance and well done Ms Bustin on singing one of the toughest parts. I feel that here we have an excellent voice that with some more stagecraft experience and guidance really has the potential to be a star.

Raoul was played by Lloyd Fitzgibbon and what a beautiful lyrical voice we heard from the very top of the show. I loved Mr Fitzgibbon’s voice. I felt he put in a lot of his own stage presence experience into this part and I always sat up whenever he appeared on stage. Acting was good and ‘think of me Christine ‘ was performed very well. Again I think chemistry with other principals could be even better but this didn’t take away from a polished performance from Mr Fitzgibbon.

Carlotta was played by Caitriona Fitzmaurice. A fabulous Diva part and any soprano diva needs little direction to carry this off and Ms Fitzmaurice certainly did that. Her solos were excellent and the stage rehearsal for Hannibal was very good . The chemistry with Piangi as regards acting was funny and entertaining. Well done on a very well crafted performance and vocal excellence.

Madame Giry played by Clodagh Harrington is a lovely part that I love. Ms Harrington played it so very well , with an excellent strong voice and fabulous accent. I would be afraid to cross her myself ! She worked very well with Meg and the duets were super. A great performance.

Andre and Firman were played by Padraig Harrington and Conor O’Sullivan . They worked well as a pair and dovetailed well. The singing was good by both and they gelled well even when surrounded by stronger voices. Well done lads.

In Meg we had a beautiful young woman with an equally beautiful voice in Maddie Courtney. She sang and moved gracefully and worked especially well with Christine. Both seemed more comfortable working together within this dynamic. Singing with Madame Giry was equally as good and in Ms Courtney I’m sure we have a star for L.O.S.T in the making.

Piangi was played by Diarmaid Barry. This is generally regarded as one of the most difficult parts to cast. An Opera quality trained tenor is a tough ask as is the range of this part and unfortunately the vocal range was just too much for Mr Barry. He did put in a lot of effort into the acting and scenes with Carlotta were very funny and very well acted. So well done on the acting but I did feel for you on the vocal. I would love to see Mr Barry in a strong baritone part where he could really show off his vocal ability to the max in combination with his excellent acting ability.

Buquet and Reyer were played by Noel King and Sean Lyons . I’m sure both are musical stalwarts as they both played these small parts to their absolute max . Mr Lyons had a great comedic face and he certainly reminded me of a beloved Wexford M.D in mannerism and voice. Lovely .

As mentioned the chorus vocally were super. A great sound , pitch perfect and a pleasure to listen to. I feel that more work was needed with movement and choreography to complete the picture but again, as a vocal unit they were simply fabulous. A lot of vocal talent in this group and long may they continue to flourish as the camaraderie between them was obvious to see. Well done to all.

For me , this production was a tale of two halves. On one hand we had an extremely talented vocally super cast. A blend of youth and experience that sounded so very good. Singing was in places sublime both individually and chorally. However, it could have been so much better. Acting direction, ensemble choreography and movement and set consistency was an opportunity missed. It was as if a lot of time was spent on certain scenes which made them stand out – E.g. The Lair scenes, The Mirror, the Labyrinth to name the stand out moments , at the expense of others. The biggest missed opportunity to really show off was the masquerade ball. The Principals sang so well even with the tempo in places adding an unnecessary strain on their voices. It is an incredibly tough sing and I admire you all in this production for your super overall vocals.

I wish you the best in future productions and thank you for the fabulous welcome.

Caroline Daly Jones

Sullivan Adjudicator 2023/24

Some photos kindly shared by the society:


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