November 10, 2011
Pioneer Theatre Guild: Phantom of the Opera
Middle of Act II: The Phantom (Hank Miller) and Raoul (Ari Axelrod) moments before dueling at the graveyard. Christine (Karina Stribley) begs Raoul not to harm the Phantom, who was her “angel of music” for many years.
There’s no nice way to say it, but the last dress rehearsal for Phantom of the Opera was, from a technical perspective, a total train wreck. The second chandelier (the first one broke) was misbehaving, and the lighting board (the computer that’s programmed to switch on and off the correct lights at the correct times) was malfunctioning for most of the run-through. There was talk of there being a Pioneer Theatre Guild Phantom messing with the production. Everyone knew this was a VERY ambitious show, so who needed a glitchy lighting board at the last minute? Would the chandelier fall safely? There was plenty of anxiety about whether opening night, less than 24 hours away, would go off smoothly.
I came back to do more photography during the matinee after opening night, since I’d heard that the lighting issues had been resolved. (Production photos without good lighting are lifeless, and that is something I cannot abide.) Indeed, the train wreck was now a well-oiled machine. Where once there had been anxiety and breakdown, now there was calm and resolution. Everyone involved with the show expressed not just relief, but an absolute giddiness about how swimmingly things were going. Someone must have remembered to pay the PTG Phantom his salary or leave his box unoccupied or meet whatever other outrageous demands he’d made. The curse was replaced with a blessing.
Okay, so this is the part where I gush about the show. I always say I can’t possibly do it justice — especially the non-visual aspects of the show, which can’t be appreciated in a photo. I wish I could have captured the aural richness of this production: each of the soloists performed brilliantly, and the orchestra was top-shelf. Hopefully, the photos below convey a sense of the splendid and lavish costumes, the dramatic lighting and special effects, and the complex prop and set pieces, not to mention the actors and dancers, who have mastered their parts. I find myself continually inspired by the talent and commitment of everyone involved in Pioneer Theatre Guild’s productions. They take big risks and somehow manage to pull it off — over and over and over again. I savor my role in documenting and celebrating this process.
Big kudos to the production staff: Susan Hurwitz (producer), Alexandra Finke (director), Joel Sparks (music director), Tim Van Riper (co-music director + ptg alumnus), Tyler Driskill (orchestra director), Sadie Yarrington (assistant director + ptg alumna), Mysti Plummer (technical director), Ciara Stella (scene shop supervisor), Kathy Lloyd (costume designer), Laura Munson (lighting designer), Nora Curtis (scenic artist + ptg alumna), Kris Park (props designer), Patrick Shrock (sound designer), Ariel Hurwitz-Greene (choreographic consultant + ptg alumna), and Kate Summers (stage manager).
Saturday, November 5 @ 7:30pm
Sunday, November 6 @ 2pm matinee
- Friday, November 11 @ 7:30pm
- Saturday, November 12 @ 7:30pm
- Sunday, November 13 @ 2pm matinee
All performances will be in Schreiber Auditorium at Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School.
More info on the Pioneer Theatre Guild and the current season.
Prologue: Relics up for auction in 1911 at the (by then decrepit) Paris Opera House foreshadow key events in the plot, the entire action of which occurs within a single flashback to the 1880s. (Jackson Tucker-Meyer, Isaiah Davis, and Conor Howe)
Ensemble in “The Dress Rehearsal of Hannibal.”
An “accident” scares the prima donna soprano, Carlotta, who refuses to perform on opening night. (Jordan McKay and Clare Lauer)
“Think of Me”: Christine (Karina Stribley), a chorus girl who’s been trained by a mysterious “angel of music,” takes over Carlotta’s role.
“Angel of Music/The Mirror”: In Christine’s dressing room after the show, the Phantom makes his entrance — as an apparition in her dressing mirror. Mitchell Fehrle designed the Phantom’s distinctive mask. (Hank Miller and Karina Stribley)
The Phantom transports Christine (and the audience) to his lair beneath the Opera in one of the most breathtaking scenes of the production. (Hank Miller and Karina Stribley)
“Music of the Night”: We see a confident, poised Phantom. Christine is overwhelmed by his generosity and faints. (Karina Stribley and Hank Miller) | Close-up of one of the Phantom’s extraordinary lamps (props to the props crew).
When Christine removes the Phantom’s mask, romance turns to rage. We may not get to see the ugly side of the Phantom’s face, but we experience a frightful side of his temperament.
The Phantom’s “Notes” are read aloud, with palpable disdain for their content. (l-r: Jassadi Moore, Lauren Victor, Jonathan Jue-Wong, Michael Shapiro, Jordan McKay, Clare Lauer, and Ari Axelrod)
“Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh.” (Conor Howe)
Another “accident” strikes the opera. (Clare Lauer)
The ballet is hurried onto the stage in an attempt to salvage the evening’s performance.
Christine on the Opera roof. | On stage as the chandelier comes crashing down. (Karina Stribley)
“Masquerade”: Swirl of gown.
“Masquerade”: Let the spectacle astound you!
Raoul and The Phantom duel at the graveyard. (Ari Axelrod and Hank Miller)
During “The Point of No Return,” Christine discovers the man under the hood is the Phantom.
The Phantom sets Christine and Raoul free. | The Phantom alone, despairing, regards the ring Christine had returned to him. Eternity winds up being rather shorter than he’d hoped. (Ari Axelrod, Karina Stribley, and Hank Miller)
Hank Miller in partial Phantom make-up (designed by make-up artist and PTG parent, Linda Long). | Cast members just before the show: Lauren Victor, Michael Shapiro, and Jassadi Moore.
The chandelier, which falls at the end of Act II, presented several logistical challenges. (l-r: crew members Joe Weindorf, Rianna Johnson-Levy, and Dylan Summers; PTG alumna Amira Belwafa; and shop supervisor, Ciara Stella)
Members of the costume crew looking like they belong on stage. (L-r: Chelsea Stauffer, Collin Augustine, Kelly Arnold, Alicia Aldridge, Libby Hollmann, Paloma Paez-Coombe, Aina Kelsaw-Fletcher.
Kneeling: Lashell McCalaster, Mitch Fehrle.)
Yo, crew! Get into the set shop for a quick group photo before the matinee!