New Castle News

Local News

April 4, 2013

Photo Gallery, Cast List, Story: Mohawk presents ‘Phantom of the Opera’

NEW CASTLE — Mohawk High’s director and student actors always challenge themsevles when choosing a spring musical.

They have never taken the easy road, or picked a simple musical, as past performances of “Ragtime” and “Les Miserables” would indicate. And this year is no exception.

In fact, 2013 may mark the pinnacle of the school’s ambitious shows.

Starting tonight, Mohawk will present the Andrew Lloyd Webber  classic — and perennial favorite of theater fans everywhere — “The Phantom of the Opera.” Show times are 7:30 p.m. today, tomorrow and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The musical centers on Christine, a young opera singer taught to improve her abilities by a mysterious masked man who haunts the shadows and the darkened corners of the Paris Opera House. This all takes place much to the dismay of Christine’s friend and childhood love, Raoul, but pleases greedy opera house owner Firmin. He sees her improvements draw him bigger and bigger houses.

Christine develops feelings for her mysterious benefactor, but through Raoul’s machinations, he is revealed to be a malformed monster.

Filled with gorgeous operatic music and high drama, “Phantom” is one of the most popular and longest-running shows in Broadway history. It is also among the most difficult to perform.

The show is directed by vocal music teacher James McKim, marking his 36th musical.

“We started almost a year ago.” McKim explained. “We began rehearsals last summer. There were no auditions. The only way to make this show was to attend all of those rehearsals. Eventually, we picked the cast from those who came to all the rehearsals.”

“We choose our shows to fit the strengths we have. This show fits our kids’ strengths. This very nature of this show is big. This is the full production, complete with falling chandelier. It is not watered down in any way.”

McKim has 52 students in his cast, plus 12 more running the show backstage.

“I never have an adult backstage,” he said. “The kids run the show. They are very dedicated and take it all very seriously. They keep each other in line and keep their heads in it.”

Senior Matthew Montgomery plays the Phantom.

“I think this is an awesome role to play,” he said. “Everyone can relate to him, his pain, his rejection. Everyone has a side to themselves that says they cannot be loved. He is a great character.”

Montgomery is one of several students who have taken private singing lessons in preparation for his role. “It has forced me to sing in a way I have never sung before,” he said.

Sophomore Jamie Rafacz  plays the main protagonist, Christine Daae.

“This is probably the most difficult and high-level show you could do in high school,” the 16-year-old said. “We’ve been practicing for months. This musical demands all that prep. I’m not bragging, but this show is on a professional level.

“We have a great vocal teacher, a great choreographer, a great director. Everyone is very committed. We are as close to professional as we can be.”

Senior Phillip Fry plays Monsieur Firmin, the greedy opera owner.  This is the second show for the football player. Previously, he played the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast.”

 “Theatre is very active,” Fry said. “There is so much to do at once. This show is very difficult, but fun.

“It has taught me to work better, to act and react, helping each other both on and off stage. I’m becoming a better person because of it.”

For McKim, who is retiring at the end of the school year, “Phantom” will be his final show.

He admits that it will be hard to let it all go, and that he will be a little teary-eyed when the final curtain falls.

 “But it is time,” he said. “This is a great and challenging show, musically, technically, and in every way. I am proud of all the work that has gone into it.”

To which Montgomery adds:  “I just think this show has taught us all what God has given us to be able to do. God has allowed us to make such beautiful things, and all to his glory.”

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