TERRE HAUTE —
One of the best-known and most-beloved musicals of our time, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” tells the haunting story of the deformed and outcast Phantom who lives within the bowels of the Paris Opera. Shunned by the world because of his appearance, the Phantom lives a secluded life in the opera house, where his occasional appearances frighten its occupants.
The orphaned chorus girl, Christine, becomes the object of the Phantom’s affection, and the musically gifted recluse begins to appear to her, training her to sing. The naïve Christine believes him to be the “angel of music” of which her late father had spoken.
Junior chemical engineering major Kendra Moore, of Seattle, Wash., plays the role of Christine in Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Drama Club adaptation of the classic musical.
“Christine is a hard character to understand because on the surface she seems kind of shallow. It took me a little while to get into her. She’s 16 and she lost her father, and in some ways she’s really mature while in some ways she’s quite naïve,” Moore adds.
As a vocalist, Moore says she appreciates the opportunity to tackle a musical with a rigorous score. “It’s really nice to have challenging music. In [a] lot of musicals, the music is campy and not very challenging.” She and the other dancers in the production also studied ballet with the Academy of Dance’s Patti Willey, “just to make it believable that we’re all ballerinas.”
Playing Moore’s “angel of music” is Jordan Gameon, a senior electrical engineering student from Huntingburg.
Gameon pities his character, the Phantom, who goes into a jealous rage when Christine reunites with a childhood sweetheart. “This guy is deformed from birth and nobody has ever been nice to him,” Gameon observes. “He hears a young Christine’s voice and he pursues it” falling in love with the young singer in the process.
“Deep down she knows she’s in love with him through their music,” Gameon adds, but Christine cannot get past the Phantom’s appearance.
David Eddy, a junior biomedical engineering major from Amherst, Mass., plays Christine’s childhood sweetheart, Raoul.
Eddy, in his first performance at Rose-Hulman, is a long-time fan of “The Phantom of the Opera.”
“There are three shows I want to do before I die: ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ ‘West Side Story,’ and ‘Don Quixote/Man of La Mancha.’ I thought I can knock one off my bucket list if I get a part,” he said as he chuckled.
Eddy describes his character as a romantic, but not terribly bright, would-be rescuer who “tries, to no avail, to save his star-crossed lover.”
Bunny Nash, director of student performing groups at Rose-Hulman, explains that the college is privileged to have the opportunity to perform the musical, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
“There are very few schools in the Midwest that have been granted the rights to Phantom.
“Only high schools and colleges that don’t have a music or theater department are granted rights to perform this show,” she adds. Nash says that the stipulations are very stringent, and only students from the approved school may perform. “You can’t bring in any ringers from outside.”
The production has been challenging for everyone involved. Nash states that the show is technically speaking, “the biggest thing we’ve ever done” with set and prop design which began last August.
Special effects are where the engineering college has an advantage over other schools when it comes to staging the elaborate musical. Student technicians have helped design and build elaborate props, such as a robotic boat. Pyrotechnics, a falling chandelier, and trap doors add to the authenticity of the performance.
“A lot of people have seen ‘Phantom of the Opera’ but we’re doing some things to make it our own,” Nash enthuses. “I think folks will enjoy it.”