In its first full scale production since forming their organization less than one year ago, on Friday and Saturday night, March 16 and 17, 2012, Young Artists of America presented the regional premiere of The Phantom of the Opera for a two night limited engagement. With vocal direction provided by Rolando Sanz and Musical Conductor Kristofer Sanz working with over 80 students in the orchestra and over forty young performers, and five excellent dancers from City Dance Center – this production captured the vocal and orchestral essence of Broadway’s longest-running musical. The most beautifully haunting love story of all-time came to the stage with a few iconic props to keep reminiscent sparks of the musical’s true magic alive. This performance included first time collaborations with both the Montgomery County Public Schools and City Dance.
The most compelling thing about this performance was the orchestra. Every note sounded crystal clear and professional. During the opening number when the gray and derelict curtain was ripped away – the audience expected the bright shiny Winston Churchill High School theatre to be behind it – only in this production you got a stunning view of the full orchestra playing wildly through the overture to thunderous applause. You got chills from listening to them as the familiar tunes floated out to the audience with vigor and passion.
Most of the emotion in this production was exuded through these talented young players. During the number “All I Ask of You” there was such moving swelling of the string section coming from the orchestra that it nearly brought you to tears. The same can be said from the mournful cries of the horn section during “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.” Conductor Kristofer Sanz maintained a professional atmosphere that kept these young instrumentalists sounding as good as the orchestra you would expect to hear on Broadway – really setting the atmosphere for this production.
There were talented vocals as well throughout the concert. These well-trained voices were more than proficient in showing off their vocal training, annunciating each word, and holding the high notes with stellar endurance. This technical approach to singing, however, left a few of the key actors sounding hollow and emotionless. Christine Daee (Haley Abramowitz) had a gargantuan vocally challenging role for a 15 year-old and took on the task with great enthusiasm.
The emotional strength, however, was found in two characters – The Phantom (Eitan Mazia) and Lady Carlotta Giudicelli (Julia Meadows). Meadows’ prima donna was the most engaging and entertaining character in this entire production. Meadows had a vibrant voice that hit every high note of her character’s role clearly and in tune, and she poured emotion and livelihood into her songs as well as her spoken lines. She was poignant and witty with her little one-liners when attacking Christine (Abramowitz), and she lived up to the role of the prima donna diva to its highest height. Meadows doted on her love interest, Piangi (Matthew Balfour), with amusing affectations and she addressed her managers with such intense attitude that she was almost scary. Watching Meadows absorb this role was truly a delight, filling in her character with the appropriate accent and over-dramatic gestures. Isabel Udell provided fine vocals as Meg Giry and Tiziano D’Affuso (Monsieur Firmin) and Samuel Waters (Monsieur André) provided humorous performances as the nervous new owners of the Paris Opéra.
The Phantom (Eitan Mazia) had a powerful voice. When Mazia’s voice was first heard echoing through the ‘opera house’ just before the number “Angel of Music” – it was quite spooky and you knew he was going to make a stunning character. His ‘Music of the Night’ was glorious. His addition at the end of “All I Ask of You” was mournful and moving. And the staging effect they used to reveal him here was very impressive. Under the cover of darkness Mazia switched places undetected with the orchestra conductor (Kristofer Sanz), and when he started singing – he spun around to face the audience, surprising everyone. This, aside from the grand reveal of the orchestra at the beginning of the show, was the most impressive spectacle in the performance.
Mazia added a bold sound to his character, creating a more boisterous Phantom than you may have ever experienced. He found true emotional depth at the end of the show when releasing Raoul (Zachary Phillips – singing the role beautifully) and Christine (Abramowitz). His stunning vocal talent shone throughout the performance – a true ‘angel of music.’
The performers and musicians in The Phantom of the Opera were stunning, and deserve all of the accolades that go along with singing through a production of one of the most difficult and critically acclaimed musicals of all times.
Running Time: Three hours with one intermission.
The Young Artists of America’s Phantom of the Opera has now closed. For more information about Young Artist of America, please visit their website.
Featured Photo: Eitan Mazia as The Phantom. Photo by Tracy Meadows.