My husband and I travelled from the US to see this show, so understandably our expectations were high. It did not disappoint. The songs are memorable to the point that you cannot get them out of your head. I keep humming, 'I Can Get Away With Anything,' which transforms itself into 'I Believe My Heart' and then 'All for Laura.'I realize that these songs are not at all musically similar, but they won't go away. If the show doesn't haunt you, the music certainly will. I think this is the best score Lloyd Webber has written since Phantom. I did not come out of "Whistle Down the Wind," "By Jeeves," or "The Beautiful Game" humming any of the tunes. Yes, there are shades of "Sunset Boulevard" and "Aspects of Love" that appear, but the lush orchestrations and the new musical themes are worth the long wait.
Michael Crawford is absolutely brilliant. He captivates the audience in every scene he is in. He is truly one of those rare individuals whose vocal abilities actually improve with age. He deftly displays his magnificent vocal range, ability to hold a note for 20+ seconds and his comic timing, especially in "I can Get Away With Anything." The laughter on the bonus opening night track, is mostly for the last line, as he holds a large rat in his outstretched hand that travels, with some detours, across his arm, the back of his neck and to his other outstretched hand. Maria Friedman nailed a great characterization of a woman who is changed by the circumstances that engulf her. She is easily believable as the strong yet at times powerless heroine. She delivers her selfless, "All For Laura" with a genuine conviction that will be hard for you to forget. Angela Christian's Anne Catherick, is a perfect blend of the ethereal and the earthly. She goes from sweetly sad and lost to the edge of sanity in the opening sequence. She delivers real vocal pyrotechnics, and is destined to haunt both the West End and Broadway for years to come. Jill Paice as the hapless Laura, has a wonderful voice though at times she seems at the limits of her vocal range, her acting ability is never in doubt. Oliver Darley as the villain, Sir Percival Glyde, is suitably slick in his almost too smooth tenor. Martin Crewes, as the hero Walter, is wonderful in the poignant "Evermore Without You."
Though the musical book is considerably changed from the Wilkie Collins tome, I feel many of the changes are improvements on an often rambling, too many charactered, sometimes unfocussed original. The fact that it first appeared as a monthly serial is obvious. (I apologize to all who feels this is the first classic mystery.) But I don't think the ending of the original is shocking enough for today's audiences to warrant a 140 minute search for the "secret." This CD will not let you down nor will it ever let you go. And like Mr. Crawford's voice, it gets better with age.