Phantom of the Opera in Dubai: everything you need to know

From tickets to the cast, here's your guide to Dubai Opera's version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical

Phantom of the Opera in Dubai: everything you need to know

He’s here, the Phantom of the Opera. Well, almost. That’s right – the Broadway hit musical is coming to Dubai Opera next week for a three-week run and it’s set to be a brilliant theatrical spectacular. It all kicks off on Wednesday October 16 and it’s set to be one of the top things to do in Dubai this month. Don’t know your Madame Giry from your magical lasso? Here’s your ultimate guide to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mega show...

So what’s all the fuss about?
Simply put, Phantom of the Opera is the longest-running show in Broadway history, and it’s an epic production telling a classic love story, based on the book by Gaston Leroux.

Combining the talents of 130 cast, crew and orchestra members, it boasts stunning scenery, jaw-dropping special effects and hundreds of beautiful costumes.

The award-winning musical also features some of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most famous music, including hits such as Think of Me and Music of the Night. In fact, the original cast recording has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.

Phantom of the Opera had more than 13,000 performances on Broadway over a span of three decades, and now for the first time ever it’s coming to the Middle East.

Announced back in December, we’re just a week away from the production taking to the stage at Dubai Opera on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard for a three-week run of dates in October through to November.

Fans and new theatregoers alike have been warned “do not miss out”, and we can agree – it’s going to be a true theatrical event.

There’s already been a lot of fanfare for the musical in Dubai, with the lead star doing a tour of the city and Burj Khalifa lighting up with a special audio-visual spectacular to celebrate the announcement.

And who exactly is this phantom?
The show is based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, and tells the tale of a disfigured musical genius known only as the Phantom who haunts the depths of the Paris Opera House – which is presided over by new owners Andre and Firmin (not to mention the formidable corps de ballet choreographer Madame Giry).

Mesmerised by the talent and beauty of a young soprano, Christine, the Phantom lures her as his protégé and falls fiercely in love with her. Unaware of Christine’s love for Raoul, the Phantom’s obsession sets the scene for a dramatic turn of events where jealousy, madness and passions collide.

So it’s a simple love story...
Not quite. There are plenty of twists and turns, including a dramatic chandelier-crashing moment as well as those legendary candle-lit lair scenes.The Phantom is also armed with a bizarre magical lasso that can strangle unwitting victims who dare cross him.

But when did it first open?
While Phantom of the Opera is the longest-running show on Broadway, it was actually a hit over in London first.

The musical opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End on October 9 1986 (so it turns 33 this week), with the lead roles featuring Michael Crawford (of Some Mothers Do Av Em fame) as the Phantom and Sarah Brightman (Lloyd Webber’s wife at the time) as Christine.

It’s still there to this day, playing to crowds six times a week.

The show is produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Group, but in Dubai it will be presented by Broadway Entertainment Group.

That company has a strong history of bringing top musicals to the Middle East, with past performances including CATS, Evita and Beauty and the Beast.

Who’s playing the lead role?
South African musical theatre star Jonathan Roxmouth was unmasked as the man playing the lead role earlier this year (for a full interview with the star click here.

As a young child, he would conduct along to the tapes of Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. Years later in 2011, a dream came true when Roxmouth’s role playing the Phantom’s nemesis-in-love Raoul in a South African production was swapped out for the lead when the starring actor was out of action.

At the age of just 24, the actor was taking to the stage in a show that had been “part of [his] family tapestry for generations”. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, once wasn’t enough. Following a run in his native South Africa, he was asked back to play the lead in Manila.

Now he’s finished a second run there and is playing the role in Singapore, before heading straight to Dubai.

“What I’m looking forward to with Dubai is that it’s never been here before,” he says. “Any actor who goes on tour will tell you that being part of a premier event is the most exciting thing, because it’s brand-new. There’s no-one to compare it to. I become Dubai’s original Phantom. I don’t take that lightly.”

And what’s different about this production?
The behind-the-scenes crew will be breathing a sigh of relief. Gone is the rickety boat from the original production that was on the same frequency as the local fire brigade, meaning it would idly sail off stage whenever an emergency call-out went by.

To the delight of the orchestra, the floating clouds of dry ice have been tamed too, so the cellists can actually read their music.

And in even better news for the stagehands, the candelabras are no longer controlled by Victorian hand cranks.

But perhaps most surprisingly, the audience will scarcely notice anything different. The music, the costumes and the sets will all be the same. In fact, they’re more faithful to the original concepts by late theatre designer Maria Björnson that were first sketched out more than three decades ago.

“What you see and what you hear is exactly the same – that hasn’t been touched,” says Roxmouth. “But backstage, it’s state-of-the-art. This is the first production since London that is as close to the original designs without associates getting in the way. They started from scratch, with Maria Björnson’s original notes. But now there are more tricks.

“What people know Phantom to be is what they’re going to get, and then some. We haven’t touched the show – the music’s there, the costume’s there, the set’s there. But there are moments the audience will notice.”

Why should I go?
We’ve had big musicals here in Dubai, but in terms of the sheer size and wow-factor of the production, nothing beats Phantom of the Opera. It has been running solidly for years, and for good reason. It’s a hit with both seasoned theatre fans and non-theatre fans alike. Don’t let the name fool you either. There are only a few minutes of actual opera in the show, so don’t worry about piercing your eardrums on any obscenely high notes (although there is one).

So when can I see the show?
Initially, Dubai Opera revealed a two-week run of dates, but following popular demand the 2,000-seat venue has added eight extra shows. There will be performances every night at 8pm (except Sundays) from Wednesday October 16 until Saturday November 9, meaning there are plenty of chances for fans to catch the hit musical. There will also be 2pm matinées each week on Friday and Saturday. And remember – audiences are encouraged to “dress up for the occasion”. It’s time to glam up.

How can I get tickets?
Tickets start from Dhs250 and go right up to Dhs850 for VIP seats at the very front of the auditorium. However, Dubai Opera is a well-designed and intimate performance space – so wherever you’re sitting, you’re guaranteed a good view of that all-important chandelier crashing moment.

Where’s worth checking out after the show?
Dubai Opera is right next to Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall, so there are plenty of cool dining spots to check out.

Romantic Thai restaurant Thiptara, which was Highly Commended in the 2019 Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards, is close by and offers a pretty terrace set out into the waters surrounding Burj Khalifa. Meanwhile, just outside the front door of the Opera is contemporary restaurant Kizmet, while just down the road is top French spot La Serre, trendy Jamaican joint Ting Irie and Asian party spot Taikun. There are also plenty of restaurants and bars in Souk Al Bahar, from US comfort food to sushi.

For a round-up of bars near Dubai Opera, click here.
Mon-Sat 8pm, Fri & Sat 2pm, 8pm. Oct 16-Nov 9. Dubai Opera, Downtown Dubai, www.dubaiopera.com (04 440 8888).

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