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Red Wing High School preparing for 'Phantom'

Director Sean Dowse instructs the cast of the Red Wing High School spring musical during rehearsal Wednesday in the gym at Jefferson School. The cast will perform "The Phantom of the Opera" May 12-15 at the Sheldon Theatre.

Signs of spring can be heard from the old gymnasium of Jefferson School as Red Wing High Schools students start their rigorous rehearsals for this year's spring musical, "The Phantom of the Opera."

What has been called the world's most haunting love story, the musical has got the kids buzzing with excitement. Director Sean Dowse, who enjoys the process, said their goal is to achieve "artistic merit."

The famed piece stands as the longest running show on Broadway and will have its RWHS debut performance with a vocally embellished show. The musical, based in Paris opera house, follows the dark love story of a troubled phantom whose love for Christine Daae leads him to take her away from her childhood sweetheart Raoul.

For seniors Michael Russell, Josh Moua and Annie Ketchum, who will play the lead roles, the excitement, pressure and sheer enjoyment of the process is evident as they show up for another day of rehearsing with ambitious expectations an charisma.

"Phantom is such a famous musical," Moua said. "The show needs to be perfect."

Moua will be playing the notorious role. When rumors flew last fall about the possibility of "The Phantom" being chosen for the spring musical, he said he wasted no time with practice monologues and vocal variety.

Auditions were open and non-character specific. His reaction when he learned of landing the role speaks for itself.

"I collapsed on the floor," Moua said with a laugh.

Russell, playing the wealthy patron Raoul the Vicomte, and Ketchum, playing chorus girl Daae, said they look forward to their exposure with equal excitement in this, their final high school musical.

"It's incredibly technical," Russell said. "The timing and set changes with props need to be flawless."

The musical is heavily vocal-based, giving students an opportunity to test their vocal cords to create harmonious scripts and melodies.

There is lots and lots of singing," Ketchum said.

"Lots of high singing," Russell chimed in.

With a cast of at least 20 theatrically inspired students, a seemingly endless rehearsal schedule before May 12-15 performances - plus prop-making, set-designing, pyrotechnics and costuming - the stage is being set for the epic production, "that people will remember for a long time," Ketchum said.

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

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