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Phantom of the Opera 4.9.18

'The Phantom of the Opera' cast members rehearse the scene 'The Manager’s Office' for the upcoming production at Millikin University.

DECATUR — Millikin University’s production of “Phantom of the Opera” will be one of the largest shows the college has brought to the stage.

“This is the first formal collaboration between the School of Music and the School of Theater and Dance,” said Beth Creighton, adjunct instructor of music. Creighton and the musical’s director, Kevin Long, both are associated with the schools of Music and Theater and Dance.

The record-breaking Broadway musical will have three performances April 20-22 at Millikin’s Kirkland Fine Arts Center.

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Tharpe_Olivia 4.9.18

Ensemble members, from left, Paige Boomer, Olivia Tharpe, Jacob Melssen and Levi Ehrmantraut rehearse.

The Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra will accompany, as well as a cast made up completely of students. According to Creighton, “Phantom of the Opera” writer Andrew Lloyd Webber has always wanted the play to be performed by students.

Previous MDSO performances have had students performing beside music professors and community musicians. 

“But this particular orchestra will be all students,” Creighton said. “The only adult on stage will be the conductor, Dr. Sergey Bogza.”

The cast is made up of 34 actors, 38 university choir members and 35 orchestra members. “And the typical play has about 20 in each,” Long said. “So we have almost doubled every department.”

The students are up for the challenge said Jacob Livingston, a senior acting major. 

“There are so many people working on this show, students, professors, crews; this is such a collaborative environment,” he said.

Benjamin Viette, a senior majoring in human services and theater, plays the phantom who menaces the cast, crew and owners of the opera house, dropping sandbags or theater props to get attention.

“He will do whatever it takes to get what he wants,” Livingston said.

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Benjamin Viette plays the role of The Phantom.

The phantom is in love with up-and-coming actress Christine, played by Sarah Obert, a freshman theater major. He begins instructing her so she can take over the leading role at the opera house.

The play will have all of the elaborate props and settings expected of a Broadway performance. “Even the falling chandelier,” Long said.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records 2013 edition, “Phantom of the Opera” is the longest-running show in the history of Broadway, with more than 12,500 performances.

“It opened on Broadway in 1988,” Creighton said. “It just celebrated 30 years.”

The orchestra will be on a 9-foot platform center stage for the entire show.

“We are staying true to orchestrations and the beautiful vocals and most of the traditional staging,” Long said. “We really wanted to honor the music and let people see the musicians as well as just hear them.”

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Music director Beth Creighton leads a rehearsal for 'The Phantom of the Opera.'

Viette and the cast noted “The Phantom of the Opera” has a reputation of excellence with theater lovers and those new to musicals. “We treat it like any other show,” Viette said. “And we possess the ability to do it.”

Millikin’s School of Music typically produces a stage opera every two years. The School of Theater and Dance produces two stage musicals a year, along with other projects.

“It is a huge show, but that is what is so amazing about it. We are all coming together in order to create it. It’s going to be amazing," Livingston said.

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"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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