“The Phantom of the Opera is here,” sings the heroine ominously. “Inside my mind.” But he's also onstage at St. Joseph High School, in their production of “The Phantom of the Opera.”
The iconic 1986 musical was based on Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel. It tells the story of young operatic talent Christine Daae, and the mysterious, subterranean-dwelling musical genius known as the Phantom, who becomes obsessed with her.
The score, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music), Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe (lyrics), features well-known songs like “Think of Me,” “Music of the Night” and “All I Ask of You.”
“Phantom” is currently the longest-running musical in Broadway history, and the second-longest on London's West End (behind “Les Miserables.”)
SJHS' production is directed by Amy Curti, who teaches English, music and choir at the school. Curti has had a lifelong connection to theater. She recalls being cast as the lead in a sixth-grade play, and the impact it had on her.
Following a two-year hiatus, theater at SJHS was revived this past March with a production of “Les Miserables,” which was also directed by Curti. She expressed gratitude to the “outgoing and forward thinking” new principal, Erinn Dougherty, and the school's board of directors, for providing this opportunity to the students.
“Whatever talent [the students] have” Curti commented, “we have something for them here.”
Looking for another powerful story to bring to the SJHS stage, Curti was drawn to “Phantom” by the impact of Christine's kindness.
“We love these stories of redemption,” she said. “She transforms [The Phantom] by being his friend. That's what carried me through, when sometimes the story can feel so dark.”
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In this production, the role of Christine is played by 15-year-old student Meghan Kelman, whom Curti described as having “perfect pitch.” Christine's love interest, Raoul, is played by 14-year-old Righetti High School student Makai Kopado.
Lloyd Webber's score melds a traditional operatic sound with 1980s pop. Curti said the technicality of the music has been a challenge.
“Musically, the show has been a beast ... yet I'm so proud of the attention to detail and work they've done.”
The student actors were joined by older local performers, creating a hybrid school/community theater production. The title role is played by Steven Equihua.
As with “Les Miserables,” the show is being staged inside the school gymnasium.
“When you walk inside,” Curti said, “you would never know you weren't in theater.”
Local builder and SJHS teacher Paul Halsell, a “huge lover of musical theater,” has constructed “quite a big set” for this production.
The backdrop flips around, with the opera house on one side and the Phantom's lair on the other. Halsell also built the Phantom's beloved organ, a mirror for him to disappear through, and opera boxes on either side of the stage.
Bill Gaines Audio, out of San Luis Obispo, provided sound, tech and lights.
SJHS' art students also got into the act, creating masquerade masks and canvas backdrop screens, under the direction of their teacher, Amy Otremba.
“Phantom” will be performed for just one weekend, from Dec. 13-15. Tickets can be purchased at the door, but cost less when purchased through Eventbrite.com.