Review: 'Phantom of the Opera' brought to life on Taylor stage

An auctioneer loudly raps his gavel, declaring the first item “sold.” The faded lighting reveals an old, broken chandelier resting center stage. All the auction attendees are dressed in black, as if attending the funeral of a once adored friend, silently studying the various unexplained objects up for sale. Suddenly, the stage is illuminated as organ music crescendos and the dusty chandelier sparks to life, transporting the audience of Taylor High School’s “The Phantom of the Opera” back in time to the full glory of a Paris opera house in 1881.

“The Phantom of the Opera,” an iconic musical written by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, tells the story of beautiful, young ingénue Christine whose soaring soprano is discovered when she reluctantly fills in for the diva Carlotta. Infatuated once again by his childhood friend, the Vicomte de Chagny Raoul attempts to rekindle his relationship with Christine. Christine, however, is frightened, controlled by her mysterious teacher, a masked “Angel of Music” who lives under the Opera House. Christine struggles to free herself from the power of this tormented genius as he terrorizes the lives of those at the opera. Raoul and the Phantom fight to win Christine’s love, but in the end, only Christine can make the choice. Taylor High School’s production of this famous musical was anchored by their strength as an ensemble and the grandness of the school’s new Performing Arts Center.

The Phantom, played by Nick Wasserbauer, is a mad and talented genius, shunned by all for the horrible disfigurement which he hides behind a mask. He lurks in the shadows and lives in the catacombs of the Opera House, believing the world has forsaken him. Though playing an iconic and daunting character for a high school student, Wasserbauer’s simplicity in his performance added to the sincerity of his actions, taking full control of this mystifying and sympathetic character.

Other standouts include Eliana Batsakis as Madame Giry and Scott Hannum in the Corps de Ballet. Batsakis was the strong, commanding onstage presence, demanding the attention of the other characters and serving as a knowing voice of wisdom. Hannum was phenomenal as a leader in the Corps de Ballet, flying across the stage with ease, and maintaining an intense and compelling character.

The makeup crew (Kaitlyn Ludwig, Krissie Beckham and Haley Irvine) instilled a clear sense of character through the performers’ visual appearance, especially in the Phantom’s horrid face. The sets, depicting various scenes above, inside and below the Opera House, were well made and appropriately conveyed the haunting atmosphere of the musical, taking full advantage of the school’s new expansive stage and fly system.

Clocking in at three hours, with a difficult score and dramatic material, “The Phantom of the Opera” proves to be a challenging undertaking for any performer. Taylor High School accomplished the task admirably, truly enveloping the audience in the magical “Music of the Night.”

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