Most people will have only seen The Phantom of the Opera on DVD or travelled to London’s West End to see it.....but all that is about to change.
Next week the proud students and tutors of Chesterfield Studios will present their regional premiere of the challenging musical.
Carole Copeland, who will direct the production at the Pomegranate Theatre, said: “This is the first time it has been released for young people. We have had to use our imagination to make it work while staying true to the story. It is very challenging musically.”
Jonathan Francis,musical director and Chesterfield Studios’ artistic director, said: “This will be the first time Phantom has been performed in Chesterfield and, as far as I know, is the first production in the region. I’ve heard of it being performed in Barnsley and Tring but nowhere in between.
“Phantom is far too big to come from the West End to Chesterfield; it is too technical and too epic. One of the licence stipulations was that we couldn’t copy things that had gone before.”
Jonathan admitted that Phantom presented the academy with its biggest challenges in years of producting musicals. Particularly taxing are the technical aspects which include a chandelier crashing to the floor, underground lake, a magical boat and a character getting his head cut off. “We will rise to the technical challenge,” he added.
Thirty-five performers, aged 12-19 years will be appearing in the production which runs from February 18 to 20.
The leading lights of Phantom are counting their lucky stars that they get the opportunity to follow their dream.
Ryan Mitchell, who plays the title role, said: “If I had two dream roles, they would have to be Phantom and Javert.”
He’s currently gearing up to play the tortured musical genius in a mask, having played Javert in Les Miserables at Newbold Community School last year.
“The Phantom is definitely the hardest role I have done,” said Ryan, 18, who lives in Loundsley Green. “It is very difficult to sing and a very challenging role. Some of the notes fall between my strong voice, which is tenor, and a falsetto voice.”
His role demands that he wears a mask on half of his face to hide the disfigurement which the Phantom has had since birth. “It looks as though I have had holes burned into my face,” said Ryan.
The disfigurement is created with liquid latex. Tweezers are used to scrape away layers of the latex to resemble scars which are then coloured with make-up.
Ryan’s blemish-free face will be transformed by make-up artist Laura Maddison before each performance.
Ryan added: “The Phantom is a tragic character who is not shown any compassion.”
While the Phantom might not turn heads with his looks, he wins hearts with his singing particularly that of Christine who he teaches to sing in the Paris Opera House.
Like her co-star, Jenny Whittaker is living out her dream. She said: “I have got a list of people I have always wanted to play and Christine is one of the top.
“I love Phantom because the music is so good. Christine has big powerful songs with the Phantom.”
Her love of singing stems back to the age of ten. As a member of Stagecoach Sheffield, Jenny was part of the chorus of a professional production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, appearing three times at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre and twice at Buxton Opera House. “That was what got me into musical theatre,” she said.
Jenny, 18, who lives in Totley, is a pupil at King Edward’s School in Sheffield.
She plans to take a gap year after A-levels before going to university for a degree course in music, specialising in singing.
Musical theatre may well have been deprived of a star in the making if it hadn’t been for Phantom....
Edward Jowle,18, said: “It is a very special show for me. It is really what got me interested in the whole thing of standing up on stage and singing.
“I saw the film when I was ten and that developed my love of classical music and opera.”
His self-confessed obsession with all things musical was fuelled by appearing in a production of Jekyll and Hyde with Chesterfield Operatic Society in 2007.
Several musicals and concerts on the big stage helped the boy singer flower into the mature performer he is today.
Phantom marks Edward’s last performance at the town’s theatre before he takes his prodigious musical talent to one of the top conservatoires in the country.
After being offered places at five of the leading training establishments, Edward, who lives in Walton, Chesterfield, has accepted an offer from the Royal College of Music in London. He has also been awarded two scholarships from the college which he will put towards accommodation costs.
In Phantom, he will be playing Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, patron of the opera and boyfriend of its star Christine who he is keen to keep her out of the clutches of the Phantom.
The production won’t be Edward’s swansong in Chesterfield. At the beginning of March, he plays the lead role in Sweeney Todd for Brookfield Community School where he is a student.
With A-levels on the horizon,Edward is balancing exam revision with rehearsals for the shows. He said: “There isn’t much pressure to get top grades to get into the conservatoire but that doesn’t mean I am not focused. I realise that A-levels are important if all this falls through.”
Tickets £15 and £12; to book, contact 01246 345222 or www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk