the weekly newsletter from Dr Ruth Weeks, Headmistress
Phantom of the Opera comes to an end
10 November 2017
Tuesday 31 October saw the opening night premiere of the EHS production of The Phantom of the Opera. Each of the five shows sold out quickly with the large cast, crew and orchestra presenting a gargantuan feast of musical theatre, rapturously received by the audiences.
Auditions began back in the summer term. Around 100 students auditioned for main parts and this had to be whittled down to just nine principal roles. Once again, as with our production of Les Misérables, male students were invited from other schools to come in and support the production. Rehearsals started at the beginning of the last half term in the summer and the chorus and principals quickly realised the scale of the challenge in front of them. With this very daunting prospect, and a series of extremely challenging rehearsals, the cast and crew went on a pre-arranged trip to see the show on the West End Stage. It was at this point that everyone realised the great potential for the production at EHS and the suddenly the coming challenge seemed clear: how would we transfer this production to the Octagon?
During the summer, students and staff gave up a week of their holidays to finish learning the vast score. For three days the nine lead characters worked to learn their extremely challenging solo and ensemble parts prior to the rest of the cast joining for the final two days of rehearsals. We were delighted that Mr Omar Okai, our guest choreographer, could join us for a day in the summer to put the dancers through their paces.
On returning to school the difficult task of blocking the production got underway. Mr Lane and Mrs Ehiogu set the fresh choreography and movement in brilliant fashion, allowing students to explore their characters at every step of the way and allowing them to bring the dialogue to life. As rehearsals progressed fittings for costume and makeup sessions were arranged. Mrs Lucas and her deputy Lucy Atkins set about creating elaborate make up and prosthetics for the cast and the Phantom’s ‘abhorrent face’. Miss Cummings and Mrs Harris brought the scenes to vivid life with bright and colourful costumes while former student Donia Fleet took on the role of stage manager in preparation for the sets and props arriving.
A week before the show was due to open the enormous sets arrived in the theatre, arranged by Mr Berman. There was a terrific effort made by members of staff and stage crew to get the sets built and ready by the October half term holidays. As the set was taking shape the fabulous programmes arrived in school, created by Mr Dukes and assisted by Hannah Vaughan, leaving us ready for the technical and dress rehearsals.
The marathon six-hour technical rehearsal was a chance for the tech team, ably lead by Mr Berman and Mr Southall, to fully establish microphone cues and a myriad of special effects. It was also an opportunity to see the set and characters lit for the first time with the lighting cues being created especially for the show by Kate Buxton, Martha Howells and the lighting team.
All that remained was to run the show with the Orchestra. Two very gruelling dress rehearsals were completed and for many students this was their first opportunity to perform with a live orchestra. The orchestra was made up of EHS students, staff and even parents, and supported by professional musicians from outside of the school. We were also joined by nine exceptional young musicians from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
As opening night came and went with great excitement the cast and crew continued to throw themselves into a week of non-stop musical performance, closing on Friday 4 November with the Gala Night finale. Despite the long hours and exhausting schedule of shows the production surpassed all expectations. The audiences, looked after by Mrs Batchelor, Miss Welsh and the front of house team, left each performance in very high spirits after witnessing each of the fantastic performances.
On opening night, a delegation of judges from the prestigious Columba Musical Awards were in the audience and they have since confirmed that the EHS production has made it through to the final of the West Midlands category for this award, a tremendous achievement considering any shortlisted production is required to score at least 90% in their criteria. The ceremony will take place in September 2018 where productions and students will be nominated for prizes. The event will take place at the Council House in Birmingham City Centre and will be attended by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham.
Congratulations and well done to everyone involved. ‘Phantom’ has been the most challenging production we have worked on to date and you have not only given a stunning set of performances but you have also gained many new skills and friendships which will last a life time!
Director of Music
Praise for Phantom:
‘We were blown away by the level of talent from the students…’ Mr Robert Parker (former Principal Dancer at Birmingham Royal Ballet and Artistic Director of Elmhurst School for Dance).
‘I couldn’t have dreamed that a school performance would be so enchanting…’ Mr Hayward (former member of staff).
‘It was an excellent, very professional performance, which we enjoyed greatly…’ Jane Leadbetter (member of the School Council).
‘Remarkable, worthy of the Hippodrome Stage…’ Mr Malcolm Wilcox (Chairman of Governors, Old Swinford Hospital).
‘What a wonderful performance it was – you ALL deserve Ria’s award…’ Graham Melville (representing the Ria Richardson memorial trophy).
Student award winners:
Isabella Birch – Rising Star Award (for her role as Meg Giry)
Charley Johnson – Ria Richardson Memorial Cup (for her role as Carlotta)
Ether Simkiss – Audience Prize (for her role as Christine)
Henry Liggins – Audience Prize (for his role as Phantom)
Phantom of the Opera comes to an end
If you need anything gentlemen, I will be in Frankfurt… Mr Reyer leaves Firmin and Andre to the theatre and the Phantom.
Perhaps we can frighten away the ghost of so many years ago with a little illumination. Gentlemen! The Chandelier rises!
The ballet from Act 3 of Il Muto – brought forward by Andre after some considerable meddling from the Phantom.
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