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Broadway at Home: "Phantom of the Opera"

Minnetonka High School brings musical, technical and dramatic expertise to the Minnesota high school debut of the production.

From the musically complicated numbers and the technically challenging feats of fireballs and crashing chandeliers to the dramatic moments between the Phantom and Christine— reached the pinnacle of excellence with their production of "Phantom of the Opera."

's production, which has already sold out all of its performances, was the first time "Phantom of the Opera" has been staged by an amateur company in Minnesota. According to theater buffs, very few high schools in the nation have attempted to produce Andrew Lloyd Webber's demanding and challenging show.  Director Kent Knutson chose the piece anyway—saying he was confident that his students could pull off the production.

"We wanted to do 'Phantom' because the rights had just been released and we wanted to be the first to attempt it," Knutson said. "I also felt we had the talent and tech experience to successfully do the show." 

The show, set in a Parisian opera house in the early 1900s, is an eerie tale of chorus girl Christine's promotion to leading lady under the influence of the opera house's phantom. This half-myth masked man entrances Christine, promising to be her "angel of music" and causing fatal accidents for anyone who gets in her way. Meanwhile, she falls for her childhood friend Raoul and ultimately saves him from the Phantom, telling him it isn't is disfigured face that is too ugly to bear, but his soul. 

Senior Kelsey Peterjohn played the role of Christine. She said the most powerful aspect of the story lies in this ending. 

"My favorite thing is the message," said Peterjohn. "The Phantom feels that Christine will never love him because of his deformed face. Actually, Christine accepts his deformity—but she cannot accept the fact that he is evil and kills people."

The Phantom is played by senior . He enjoyed the challenge of playing such a tortured and disturbing character. 

"There are so many levels to him because he's never been loved and he doesn't know how to love," he said. "He's very misunderstood and so to be able to play a character that's that complex with so many levels is challenging and very fulfilling."

McCartan and Peterjohn, who will both be attending the Guthrie B.F.A. Acting Training Program at the University of Minnesota in the fall, are passionate about theater because, they said, they enjoy telling a story. 

"Theater is inspiring because it shows us what it means to be human," said Peterjohn. "I love when people understand the message of the story. The biggest compliment is when people are so involved that they react emotionally."

"I love changing peoples' lives and making people think; impacting them, inspiring them. Theater does all of those things in a very beautiful and true way," said McCartan. "My job is almost to be a sociologist and analyze society; to show what we have been, what we are and what we will be."

Difficult special effects and a complicated music score appropriately accompany the chilling story.

"It was really challenging because we're all so good at what we do. The acting was solid, the tech was solid -- to merge that to create the oneness of this spectacle piece was difficult," McCartan said. 

Peterjohn highlighted the difficulty of the musical score and credits the entire MHS theatre department for the quality of the show. 

"We spent the first two weeks just learning all of the music before we started to stage it. The music is hard and we have to be careful about conserving our voices," she said. "The whole show is very challenging but a blast for everyone involved. It works because everyone at Minnetonka is committed to pursuing excellence in theater. From the tech crew to the chorus to the orchestra members, each person cares and gives their best."

Knutson is thrilled with the final product. 

"The show has come to life in every way I dreamed it would. Characters are developed and believable, music is well-played and sung, tech work is spectacular and our audiences fantastic," he said. "This is a dream show come true."

While all remaining performances are sold out, some extra tickets will be available one hour prior to the shows on a first come, first served basis. For more information, visit www.minnetonkatheatre.com

Fun Facts*: 

1. A crew of more than 40 students met every day after school for eight weeks to build and paint the sets and props. 

2. More than 300 costumes have been built, borrowed, bought or rented, totaling nearly 1,000 individual costume pieces overall.

3. Lighting for the show, including the chandelier, incorporates more than 250 individual candle lamps.

4. The state-of-the-art sound system uses 32 wireless mics on actors and 28 mics in the pit. This is the first production using a surround speaker system with a new 8-channel sound effects playback system.

5. The musical score for "Phantom" is among the most complicated ever performed by Minnetonka Theatre. 

*Courtesy of the Minnetonka Theatre's "Phantom of the Opera" program. 
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