'Phantom' promises; Red Wing High School student deliverIt's a logistical nightmare filled with songs that challenge the best vocalists and characters who have captured the imaginations of audiences on the big screen as well as the most demanding professional stages.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
It's a logistical nightmare filled with songs that challenge the best vocalists and characters who have captured the imaginations of audiences on the big screen as well as the most demanding professional stages.
But at heart, "The Phantom of the Opera" is a tragic love story swept along on the strains of Andrew Lloyd Webber's compelling music.
Red Wing High School students tell that story with all the emotion, drama and energy the production demands. The spring musical, which will be staged again tonight and Sunday afternoon at the Sheldon Theatre, delivers on its reputation's promise.
The lead actors do yeoman's work, particularly Annie Ketcham in the role of Christine Daae.
The young soprano at the Paris Opera House catches the eye of the opera's resident ghost, known as the Phantom. Enchanted by the lovely ingénue, he seeks to make her a star - first by teaching her, then by forcing the opera's owners to give her lead roles.
Emotionally, Christine is torn between the Phantom, who is at the same time her "Angel of Music" and the frightening creature who terrorizes the opera house, and Raoul, a gentle and loving man she has known since childhood.
An accomplished vocalist with an abundance of charm and grace, Ketcham sings of and with both men as she struggles to choose.
Josh Moua is a complex, dangerous Phantom, in stark contrast to Michael Russell's straightforward, honorable Raoul. Moua's voice has a depth and maturity that are fitting for the character. In contrast, Russell is youthful, bound by tradition.
Adding another dimension to the mix is Briana Moynihan as Carlotta, the opera house's lead soprano. She commands the stage with her knock 'em dead singing and prima donna attitude, in partnership with Ubaldo Piangi, a role capably played by Luke Kays.
"Phantom" has a huge supporting cast, including Mallory Sachen and Loretta Anderson as Madame Firmin and Madame Andre, owners of the opera house, plus Kristianna Harris and Chloe Mark as Madame Giry and Meg Giry. Each has well-deserved moments in the spotlight.
Another element audiences will note with approval is the choreography, designed by Ellen Hutchinson and Mark.
Mark and Ketcham were among the leaders who developed a strong dance component in last year's spring musical, "Kiss Me Kate." This year's Corps de Ballet is every bit as strong.
"Phantom" has the added task of putting on three operas, each requiring a costumed cast and additional singers. Fortunately, local students are accustomed to working in tight quarters on the Sheldon stage.
Still, the logistics were difficult at times. The set's revolving platform was used effectively, and lighting/special effects filled in for props that would just have gotten in the way.
From an audience perspective, it's easy enough to go with the flow and figure out time and place. At the same time, a listing of scenes in the program, with the time element and location cited, would eliminate confusion and aid in a smooth transition of scenes.
Supporting elements met - and sometimes exceeded - expectations, including the orchestra (director Dan Marrs), singing (director Mikkel Gardner), set/props (Heather Finholm/Ryan Schmidt), costumes (Karen Boek), lighting (Jacob Chalmers) and sound (Jessica Lindstrom).
"Phantom" offers plenty of surprises in addition to 2 1/2 hours of unforgettable music and compelling drama. Director Sean Dowse, who has a history of inspiring high school kids to reach new levels of accomplishment, gets credit for another memorable spring musical.