Last Friday was sunshine and showers but I was in perky form despite a killer headache. The show must go on as they say! And what a show – The Phantom of the Opera at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. I found my mate dangling his legs over the side of the Grand Canal basin. Just kidding… But there was a gang of boys diving into the water and it looked like such fun! Next, KC Peaches for bites.
The deal is that you can pick any size plate – small, medium, large – and fill up with whatever you fancy. The food here is scrummy, especially for salad fans, and we went for beef curry, stuffed chicken and mixed greens. Even better are the cakes – don’t worry we kept room! Passion fruit cheesecake and peanut butter jelly brownies were washed down with creamy coffee. I was feeling better already…
The Bord Gais Energy Theatre, though slick and modern, has an intimate feeling. There’s a lovely party atmosphere – everyone’s here for a good time. But it’s the great staff that make the place. We were well looked after from the moment we arrived. I’ve seen Phantom once before, at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London and I can still recall that spine tingling performance. The passion, the sorrow. The music.
The show opens on a magnificent set, the Paris Opera House, with the ensemble cast limbering up for a top performance. The scene is opulent and the costume fine, but lurking beneath in the shadows is the Phantom. Shamed by his physical appearance and feared by all he soon comes to the surface, his love for his singing protege Christine Daae too strong to control. She is at once repulsed and fascinated.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hallmark musical is in Dublin for the first time after twenty five phenomenal years. The original players, Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford, are of course legendary but the actors in this show are very impressive indeed. Katie Hall gives her all as Christine, her glorious voice filling every corner of the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, matched only by rival Carlotta for high notes.
However, it is the Angel of Music who really captures our imagination. The Phantom, played by John Owen Jones, is as mesmerising as he is menacing. Jones’ voice is tremendous and his portrayal of the tortured recluse is heart wrenching. I can’t help being swept away by the tragic romance of this show, as Christine is torn between her lover Raoul and her mentor Phantom, to whom she remains loyal.
With songs like “The Music of the Night”, “All I Ask of You” and “Phantom of the Opera” the production is as fine as you’d imagine, but live these numbers simply soar through the air. The infamous crashing of the grand chandelier is a great moment but the drama reaches a crescendo as Phantom loses the plot and kidnaps Christine. John Owen Jones’ captivating tones wring out as madness unleashes.
But Phantom’s heart is melted by Christine’s kindness to him and he eventually releases her to Raoul, surrendering to his own lonely fate. He gifted her a voice and realises that is all he can give. The lesson of The Phantom of the Opera is that one must not love for oneself but for the other person. Raoul’s genuine concern for Christine is selfless and holds the mirror up to Phantom’s emotional black hole.
It is human nature to covet what you cannot have and that is why we sympathise with Phantom. I know he moves me to tears! But it’s the highs and lows of Lloyd Webber’s powerful arrangements that pull on the heart strings. Beautiful music. We breathed a sigh of awe as the final curtain fell and the cast took a collective bow. Truly one of the greatest shows on earth. Love never dies. Now home to dream…
Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Grand Canal Square, Dublin 2 / www.bordgaisenergytheatre.ie
Doncha love those evenings when you’re milling about the house and a friend calls, off the cuff? Since my mate was nearby we decided to meet up at Grand Canal Dock for a natter and a bite to eat. Any excuse! GCD is a lively hub at the end of Pearse Street, home to the Grand Canal Theatre (or the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, if you fancy) and neighbours with Google and the IFSC.
There’s a nice crop of bars and restaurants on the colourful waterfront, most of which kindly feed me on a regular basis. I might start keeping shoes in my oven a la Carrie Bradshaw… So it came as a surprise to me that I’d never been to Herbstreet. Maybe it’s because, anytime I stroll by at the weekend their terrace is packed out with fellow townies brunching away. But tonight there was room for two!
The place is buzzy with a healthly pre-theatre crowd tucking in to hearty fare. Our lovely waitress told me that Herbstreet’s opening times cater to performance nights these days and indeed our fellow diners had filtered out by showtime. Alas, it’s a top people watching spot while the going is good. Indeed I found myself chatting to an ex boss of mine! That’s what I love about Dublin.
Herbstreet’s menu is a delicious read with homemade burgers, fresh seafood and imaginative salads. We munched on creamy Cobb salad, sardines on toast and chunky sweet potato chips, with a bottle of Hoegaarden each. The food was so well put together, my sardines were big juicy fellas that came on feta and sundried tomato green leaf salad, with salty capers. Simple. Yummy.
It was nice to have the place to ourselves by the time tea was served, catching up on the goss as we were. Dessert, including my fave New York baked cheesecake, was tempting but we passed, already satisfied customers. Herbstreet’s staff were such a joy and, as a local, they welcomed me back for brunch, to sample their in-house cakes. Well, there’s no breakfast cereal at home…
Herbstreet, Hanover Quay, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2 / www.herbstreet,ie