Bishop Ireton High School
Deep underneath the heart of Paris, a phantom cry ricochets through the catacombs and echoes through the great hall of the Opera, at long last finding its home in the heart of Christine Daae. South Lakes' production of Phantom chronicles a beautiful tale of love and loss, beauty and ugliness, and finding acceptance in the most unlikely places.
Based on Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera (1910), Phantom tells the story of a recluse named Erik who dwells in the catacombs under a famous Opera house and inevitably falls in love with a beautiful singer named Christine. Erik offers to train Christine so that she might best the new opera owner's wife, Carlotta. He insists that his identity must remain anonymous by wearing a mask, shrouding the rest of the plot in mystery and wonder.
Following the storyline, South Lakes' Margarita Gamarnik (Christine Daae) opened the show with a lively yet sweet rendition of "Melodie De Paris," giving the audience just a taste of her vocal prowess. However, when paired with Jalen Robinson (Phantom), Gamarnik and Robinson's voices together created a magical concoction of music as golden as honey, matching pitch precisely as well as harmonizing effortlessly, even on incredibly difficult notes. Their connection on stage was undeniable, especially in more tender moments when Robinson carried Gamarnik lovingly across the stage, all while belting incredibly difficult melodies.
Juxtaposing the heart-wrenching love between the Phantom and Christine, the chemistry between Cholet (Carl Saunders) and Carlotta (Mely Megahed) brought the house down, making the audience cry tears of laughter every time they walked on stage. Megahed especially should be commended for her performance, as her attention to comedic detail was astounding. Every moment Megahed was on stage, she was hyper-focused on her character, reacting appropriately large to Carlotta's huge ego. Megahed was at her funniest during the number "This Place is Mine," which she dominated both vocally and comically, milking the audience for more and more attention until they were completely enraptured. As a true tribute to Megahed's acting abilities, when one of her characteristically large and opulent earrings fell off, Megahed continued to belt extremely complicated notes until she found an appropriate time to elegantly swoop down to the floor and shove the earring down her dress.
The technical aspects of South Lakes' Phantom were just as impressive as the performance elements, showcasing the tech department's dedication to doing the show as it was meant to be: dramatic till you drop dead. When the Phantom finally revealed himself on the stage of the Opera, two chandeliers plummeted from the ceiling simultaneously, causing the audience to flinch back in terror. In addition, the use of pyrotechnics and smoke created a ghostly and serious mood, making the scenes that were occurring on stage both dramatic but scarily real at the same time. The stage crew should also be commended for their construction of an enormous staircase, which was moved on stage cleanly and efficiently every single time and was clearly stable in every way, as an entire fight scene occurred between its dark and looming railings.
Moreover, while South Lakes' production of Phantom perfectly embodied the saying "scarily good," it also remained light and comedic when the occasional reprieve was required, flawlessly striking the delicate balance between comedy and drama that all thespians hope to obtain.
Flint Hill School
In their production of Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's Phantom, the students of South Lakes High School invited audiences into the world of the Paris Opera House, letting them experience everything from the grandeur of the company's stage to the shadows and secrets of the catacombs down below.
Despite it never appearing on Broadway, there have been over 1,000 productions of Phantom since its first performance in 1991. The source material for Phantom, Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera, was also the basis for Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical of the same name, which has outshone Yeston and Kopit's show in the past. Thus, the plotline is familiar; Erik, isolated in the catacombs underneath the Opera House because of his disfigured face, becomes captivated by the beautiful voice of young Christine Daae and falls in love with her. As he fights to protect Christine from the evils of the world above, Erik must try to break down his walls of insecurity and self-hatred to let Christine truly love him.
From the beginning of the show, the dramatic and eerie atmosphere of the musical was impeccably expressed. The student orchestra, sporting their phantom masks, played the overture with talent beyond their years, providing a haunting prelude to the show. The members of the pit continued to play immaculately throughout, always paying attention to the happenings onstage and adjusting their playing accordingly.
Exceptional performances included that of Jalen Robinson, who played the ostracized Phantom. Robinson's strong voice and intense emotion made his rendition of a tortured soul entirely believable. Every word he said and sang conveyed his devotion to Christine (Margarita Gamarnik), whose gorgeous soprano brought chills to the audience. Gamarnik portrayed Christine with innocence and compassion, and never failed to showcase her stunning upper register as her voice soared through the theatre. Together, Robinson and Gamarnik exquisitely showed the journey of Erik and Christine's relationship. Their chemistry blossomed as the show went on, and their intimacy in the face of tragedy was a wonderful depiction of unconditional love. The pair's voices also blended beautifully, leading to the sheer beauty of musical numbers such as "You Are Music," Christine and Erik's duet.
The night was not all about sentiment and feeling; Carlotta, played by the hilarious Mely Megahed, provided much comic relief as she schemed to become the star of the Paris Opera. Although her extravagant singing voice irritated the Phantom to no end, it absolutely delighted the audience. Megahed's over the top expressions and songs consistently stole the show.
The South Lakes crew achieved multiple technical feats, including an impressive display of pyrotechnics and the plummeting of two chandeliers. The stage crew's ability to maneuver bulky set pieces and moving projections behind the set further added authenticity to the production. Another notable technical element was the Phantom's boat ride in the catacombs, made complete with a moving boat and fog drifting across the stage. Thanks to the make-up team, the complicated hairstyles of the cast remained in place throughout the night.
The skilled leads, lively ensemble, and gifted orchestra and crew of South Lakes' production of Phantom helped their audience see that true love is based not on appearances, but on character and inner beauty.