James Madison High School
Human obsession is best delivered through disturbing infatuation and heartfelt affection as ardently presented by Westfield High School's The Phantom of the Opera. Reminiscent of the complexity of human attraction, the production balanced perilous rage and romantic angst that kept the audience reveling in the music of the night.
Andrew Lloyd Weber's rock opera first appeared in London's West End in 1986, accruing a collection of awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical. Since its 1986 premiere, it has been revived numerous times worldwide, becoming Broadway's longest-running musical. Set in nineteenth-century Paris, the musical details the mysterious phenomenon of the Phantom of the Opera, a facially-deformed outcast residing in the underground lair of the Opéra Populaire. A musical prodigy, he develops a fervent affinity for young soprano Christine Daaé, coaching her to operatic success. The Phantom falls madly in love with Christine, throwing violent furies and descending deeper into depression as Christine reunites with past suitor Vicomte Raoul de Chagny. As the Phantom's paranoia swells, so do his threats on the Opéra Populaire, terrorizing Christine to emotional despair.
John Henry Stamper, in the lead role of The Phantom of the Opera, delivered a multi-dimensional performance that remarkably portrayed the character's emotional complexity, specifically through his intricate interactions with leading lady Molly Van Trees in the role of Christine Daaé. Stamper's tenor voice proved perfect for the intensity of the score, while also fitting for the more delicate sequences such as "The Music of the Night." Molly Van Tree's light soprano vocals complemented Stamper's severity, and together they created immense emotional vehemence that blossomed in "The Point of No Return." Together, they were a vocal powerhouse, dedicating extraordinary detail to the depth of their characterizations and gracefully tackling the remarkably challenging vocal score.
The production's supporting cast enhanced the impassioned delivery of the leads by offering perfectly-timed comedic moments. Particularly notable were Braeden Anderson and Harry Schlatter in the roles of Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur André, respectively. Anderson and Schlatter maintained an exceptional commitment to their characters and worked together seamlessly, leading the rest of the supporting cast in the comedic showstopper of the night, "Notes." Poised and sophisticated, Lily Whitman in the role of Madame Giry exhibited a commendable maturity with her unwavering stage presence and compelling vocals, lending her substantial stage authority. Anderson, Schlatter, and Whitman often united with the ensemble of the Opéra Populaire who effectively utilized the cast's dancing strength.
The technical aspects of the production enhanced the eerie and enigmatic mood delivered by the actors. Lighting by Ray Panzer and Vicky Thomas and sound by Nic Swanson and Vicky Thomas assisted in establishing the intensity of Stamper's Phantom. Especially notable was the movement of the Phantom's off-stage lines throughout the peripheries of the auditorium, immersing the audience in the role of terrified Christine. Similarly, the lighting execution amplified the production's most climactic moments, such as the iconic rise of the chandelier that welcomes the audience into Act One. Conversely, the lighting also lent an appropriately sinister presence to the stage during the more emotional instances between The Phantom and Christine. The actors were accompanied by a sensational pit orchestra that successfully bestowed the imposing appendage of a Weber production. Well balanced within itself and a harmonious complement to the actors' vocals, the orchestra was a striking talent of its own.
Nothing to fear, this "horror" of a show performed by Westfield High School was one of vocal and dramatic balance and strength, procuring the cast and crew a standing ovation for their portrayal of The Phantom of the Opera.
Oakton High School
From the opening organ notes that signal the ascension of a glowing chandelier, the haunting atmosphere of 19th century France radiates throughout Westfield High School's theater, where the technically outstanding and well-performed production of "The Phantom of the Opera" is as mysterious and glamorous as a masquerade.
"The Phantom of the Opera", based on the eponymous French novel by Gaston Leroux, features music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, and book by Lloyd Webber and Stilgoe. Premiering on the West End in 1986 and on Broadway in 1988, the musical has found success through in numerous worldwide productions. Sweeping the Olivier and Tony Awards, winning Best Musical at both, "The Phantom of the Opera" is Broadway's longest-running production, boasting over 10,000 performances.
The story focuses on the mysterious happenings at France's Opéra Populaire following the breakout performance of chorus-girl-turned-star-soprano Christine Daaé, aided by her unseen, spectral vocal coach - the Phantom of the Opera. As his infatuation for her passes the point of no return, Christine's childhood friend Raoul returns for her affections, and the opera staff grows increasingly infuriated with the Phantom, Christine must choose between her teacher or protector.
John Henry Stamper's embodiment of the deformed Phantom contrasted sympathy and fragility with power and rage. Stamper's steady voice was excellent both offstage, during his frequent disembodied taunting of the opera management, and onstage - the dedications he showed in "Music of the Night" proved for an intimate piece of theatre.
His Angel of Music, Christine Daaé, is a role that is emotionally and vocally difficult, but the dedication and innocence that golden-voiced Molly Van Trees provided make her portrayal a successful one. From her giddy debut in "Think of Me" to her anguished breakdown in "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again", Van Trees is delightful; her chemistry with Raoul (Gene Kim, chivalrous and sweet) shone in the charming "All I Ask of You".
The opera community, a cluster of eccentric characters, were all played excellently - from Meg Giry (Kaili Fox) as a sisterly figure to Christine; Lily Whitman as Madame Giry, perfectly severe and secretive; and the resident prima donna, Carlotta, whose wide operatic range and wider ego were played entertainingly by an animated Lauren LeVine.
Despite the show's dark tone, there were still opportunities for comedy - particularly from the high-strung theater owners, Monsieurs Firmin and André, played by Braeden Anderson and Harry Schlatter, respectively. The two had excellent chemistry, making their exasperated meetings in "Notes" and agile reactions to the opera's disasters perfect comedic relief.
The ensemble fills the scenes well, with the opera's ballet corps and crew reacting to the happenings around the theater with shock and fear. The entire company maintained energy and passion while beautifully blending harmonies throughout the complex score.
The stage crew (Brendan Mallon, et al.) were as efficient as a professional opera crew - their set changes were quick and silent, transforming the stage from Christine's dressing room to the Phantom's candlelit lair in seconds. The lighting (Vicky Thomas, et al.) was chilling, particularly the combination of colored lights and footlights for dramatic effect in the climax of "Notes". Kaili Fox's makeup and hair design both shone - particularly the well-applied wigs and the Phantom's terrifying yet spectacularly done deformed makeup.
Every minute is intoxicating, down to the final moments in the Phantom's lair where love, true and unrequited, fuels an armrest-gripping scene. By the culmination of Westfield's thrilling production of "The Phantom of the Opera", you'll find yourself wishing you were somehow there again.