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'The Phantom of the Opera'

Phil Reed plays the Phantom in 'The Phantom of the Opera' with Shardae Rudel as Christine. Photo by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)
February 09, 2011 - Brandon Twp.- Fans of musicals will soon have an opportunity to see one of the most famous, beloved productions in recent memory.

"The Phantom of the Opera" will come to the local stage at 5 p.m., Feb. 24, and 7 p.m. Feb. 25 and 26 at the Brandon High School Performing Arts Center, 1025 S. Ortonville Road.

"The community is fortunate to be able to see this show," said BHS Musical Director Debbie Sebetic. "It's so popular and you can see it much cheaper here than anywhere else. We have quality productions, so it's a bargain deal."

The rights and royalties to "The Phantom of the Opera" recently became available, prompting Sebetic to select for the 2011 BHS musical the production billed as Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterwork and the longest-running musical in Broadway history.

Nicole Ladd, a BHS junior, said the setting for "Phantom of the Opera" is an opera house in the late 1800s. She plays Carlotta, a soprano at the opera house who shares the lead with Piangi (played by Zach Schroeder) until Christine Daae (Shardae Rudel) emerges into the spotlight and takes over the lead soprano role. The phantom (Phil Reed), a deformed man who lives under the opera house and haunts the singers, falls in love with Christine, who is engaged to Raoul (Matt Yettaw), an opera patron. He forces her to make an impossible choice.

Ladd describes "Phantom of the Opera" as a romantic tragedy and said the audience will love the life the actors bring to the characters through singing, dancing and acting.

Sebetic cast 55 students in the production, which features 26 pieces of music, including "Past the Point of No Return" and "Masquerade."

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Sebetic played piano during a rehearsal, while students danced across the stage, and discussed "Phantom," which she has seen on stage four times and calls a "very exciting, classic musical."

"Every musical has spots that are challenging," she said. "This one has multiple challenging spots."

Among the challenges were the special effects, as the phantom disappears throughout the musical and appears in different areas of the auditorium; the music, which is almost continuous; and the high notes required of the sopranos, particularly the high "c" and high "e." Sebetic remarked that not every girl can reach those notes, but she found two or three who could and only the original keys are being used in the musical.

Sebetic and the students collaborated on the choreography for "Phantom of the Opera." They have been rehearsing since early January, making for some sleepless nights for Sebetic, as she wakes up thinking about scenes.

"I like the mystery and the intrigue," Sebetic said of "Phantom." She laughs as she adds, "The mystery is the phantom is a creep and has issues."

Reed said he enjoys playing the Phantom for that reason.

"This is not your normal cut and dried musical," said Reed. "This seems more original because of the obsession and confusion between love and music."

Rudel, who plays Christine, the object of the Phantom's obsession, said her first lead role in a musical she grew up with is a dream.

"A lot of people hold his musical dear and I hope I can live up to it," said Rudel. "I love the last scene and when we perfect it, the finale will be phenomenal. I hope they like it, because I know I do."

Tickets for "The Phantom of the Opera" are $8 for the early bird performance, 5 p.m., Feb. 24, and $10 for the 7 p.m. performances on Feb. 25 and 26. Tickets are on sale from 4-6 p.m. Feb. 14, 16, 18 and 23 in the high school lobby, or buy Phantom by phone, calling Jody Yettaw at 248-766-1289.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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