It was quite the coup for Shoreline Productions, previously Ventnor Theatre Group, to secure the rights for Andrew Lloyd Webber's epic musical Phantom of the Opera.

It was to be the first time it had been staged on the Island. But match up the show with the talented production team that brought audiences Jesus Christ Superstar in 2019, and wow, this promised to be spectacular indeed.

With Jeanie Brown at the helm as director, and Tony Careless and Rosie Hayward as musical directors, even at the early stages this was looking like a musical not to be missed.

Immediately, I wondered, who would play Phantom? I just had a feeling it should be Steve Jones. This production team had picked him as Judas five years previously and he was, as I wrote at the time, electrifying. Surely, it had to be....

Isle of Wight County Press: Holly Gardiner as Carlotta GiudicelliHolly Gardiner as Carlotta Giudicelli (Image: Paul Bird Photography)

So when the cast was announced, and there was Steve in the eponymous role, I knew I had to watch.

It seems I wasn't alone in thinking that! Long before the show opened on Thursday, all four nights at Shanklin Theatre completely sold out. Phantom was the hottest ticket in town!

How fantastic to have sold every seat. But would it live up to expectation?

The answer to that is a resounding yes, a million times yes! I defy anyone who watched it to tell me that's an exaggeration!

The music, both powerful and beautiful, hits you from the off. The 24-piece orchestra was so large, two rows of seats had to be removed from the auditorium to make room.

The complex music and huge orchestra was expertly handled by conductor Careless, also "the maestro" in the musical itself. Safe hands.

A word here for the sound and tech crew too. Every light, every pyrotechnic (and there were lots), every prop, every moment was carefully considered and spot on. 

The cast knew their steps, they knew their words, and there was never any risk a prompt would be needed. This show had been rehearsed to perfection and you got the feeling everyone was treating Lloyd Webber's creation with the utmost respect it deserved.

Of course Steve Jones made the perfect, passionate, heart-breaking Phantom. His voice from the valleys, strong and masterful yet also from the heart, gave the needed gravitas to the role.

His equal on stage was the sublime Ashleigh Mackness as Christine Daae, and the tension in the audience when she obeyed the Phantom "sing,  sing, sing for me" and then hit those notes! What a role, what a performance.

The third person in this strange relationship was Raoul, played by the brilliant Bertie Everson. His expertise after years on stage and his beautiful voice meant he was another exemplary casting.

There were so many fantastic performances. The entire cast and indeed the entire production fully deserved those full houses. It was a show not to be missed.

Isle of Wight County Press: Steve Jones as the Phantom of the OperaSteve Jones as the Phantom of the Opera (Image: Paul Bird Photography)