Phantom of the Opera

April 09, 2018 at 9:38 AM

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Over the last decade, the Saint Kentigern stage has seen some of the ‘block busters’ of musical theatre superbly delivered by our talented student cast, crew and musicians. Whether the epic masterpiece, ‘Les Miserables,’ the rollicking fun of ‘Spamalot’ or the fairy-tale fantasy of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ our students have risen to the challenge, and our audiences have left Elliot Hall in awe of the ability of our students and the overall staging of each show. 

There was one piece missing in the ‘masterpiece’ puzzle; one of the most successful theatrical productions of all time and the longest running musical on Broadway and the West End – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash-hit musical, ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’ With the recent release of the rights to allow staging by schools in New Zealand, Saint Kentigern led the charge! 

As a show that is largely sung-through, with only occasional spoken lines, it requires a tremendously talented cast of singers. Knowing we had the necessary flair within our current student cohort to do the show justice, the College is proud to be the first school in New Zealand to bring this amazing production to the stage. West End, Broadway, Elliot Hall…the College is in fine company! 

Based on the 1910 novel ‘Le Fantôme de l'Opeéra’ by Gaston Leroux, Lloyd Webber’s musical tells the story of a disfigured musical genius living in the dark shadows of the Paris Opera House. In the title role of the Phantom, Year 13 student, Harrison Griffiths brought everything we have come to expect and more to the show. Those who attended the earlier Masquerade Evening and saw Harrison sing alongside Tim Beveridge, the professional singer who played the original New Zealand Phantom, were left in no doubt that this was a young man with an exceptional voice who gave every ounce of his being to the role. 

Shamed by his physical appearance and feared by all, the Phantom lives a shadowy existence. After hearing the hypnotic voice of a young soprano, Christine Daae, the Phantom becomes besotted, taking her under his wing to groom for operatic fame - but turns mad with jealousy when he discovers she is in love with another man, Viscount Raoul de Chagny. Year 12 student, Millie Elliot, is a stalwart of the Saint Kentigern music scene and proved once again that her vocal range can handle the most demanding of roles; switching convincingly between the young girl in love with Raoul and the upcoming soprano in fear of her musical mentor. Year 13 student, Jacob Borland-Lye took on the role of Raoul, another young man with a powerful voice and incredibly strong stage presence.

Played as a ‘show within a show’, the audience is pulled into the story by many characters as the parody of French grand opera unfolds in the first act. Venice Qin (Year 12) plays the role of preening Italian Diva, Carlotta Giudicelli to a tee, with a strong voice and beautifully affected, over the top mannerisms. Sam Ashton (Year 13), playing opposite Carlotta as Ubaldo Piangi, is long-suffering as the ‘underdog’ to Carlotta’s demands, a role he plays with wit.

Natalya Trombitas (Year 13), brought poise to the stern ballet mistress, Madame Giry, stalking the stage commandingly. In contrast, comedic relief was delivered superbly by Matthew Farnell (Year 13) and Matthew Turner (Year 12) as Richard Firmin and Monsieur Gilles Andre – two men who have no experience with the arts but have purchased the opera house and try to assert their influence on the upcoming operatic and ballet production – which goes badly awry as the Phantom becomes increasingly angered.

The show music is so well-known that there is no room for ‘hitting the wrong note!’ As soon as the orchestra struck up the ominous, thundering organ chords, it became clear that this was a well-rehearsed and capable group of musicians who were able to take on a difficult score.

Stage crews are usually only seen fleetingly as they change props, but in this production, they moved as one, often remaining on stage as the large set pieces turned and changed. Despite the limitations of the available stage space between props, the choreography was also superbly executed by those with focussed dancing roles.

Costuming a production such as this takes months as each performer is sized and fitted, with some requiring numerous costume changes. Alongside the team caring for the wardrobe, is another undertaking hair and makeup. Harrison, in his role as the Phantom, spent the longest of all in makeup as the silicone mask of a tortured soul was carefully applied to the side of his face for each performance – only seen when Christine tears away his mask. For the girls charged with applying the silicone mask, this was a rare makeup opportunity, last offered when the College staged Beauty and the Beast.

The vocal range, strength, power and beauty of this performance was breath-taking – just reward for months of detailed work. It was an enthralling spectacle and the staff and production team, along with their student cast and crew, are to be applauded for having the courage, talent, dedication and commitment to be the first to bring this to a school stage in New Zealand. Well done, the audience loved it! 


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