‘Phantom of the Opera’: Jaw-dropping performance

Santa Rosa Junior College’s Burbank Auditorium celebrated their 75th anniversary by putting on their largest production to date. The chairwoman of the college’s theatre arts department, Laura Downing-Lee, considered this production to be a landmark event for their theater. “The Phantom of the Opera” transformed the auditorium stage to Paris 1881, where the classic story was told.

“The Phantom of the Opera” is a timeless musical based on the 1910 novel “Le Fantome de Opera” by Gaston Leroux. The story became a musical in 1986 when it was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Charles Hart and additional lyrics from Richard Stilgoe. The story is set in 1905, flashing back to 1881. It tells the story of a distorted man who wears a mask to hide his deformity. 

Lurking beneath the Paris Opera House, the Phantom threatens and terrorizes all who locate within his opera house, instilling fear in their hearts in order to control the public.

Despite his deformity and crippling insecurity, the Phantom falls in love with a young and innocent chorus girl, Christine Daae, and puts all of his efforts into winning her love and making her a star by nurturing her voice as her mysterious and unknown tutor. 

The phantom tries to manipulate everyone and everything around him to instill fear and have complete reign over the theater. His manipulations include threats, destruction and several murders of opera staff and patrons. 

Although his soul is distorted and tormented due to his birth-defected face, the Phantom craves love and beauty as he pours his emotions into composing operas. As a musical genius, he refers to himself as the “Angel of Music” - yet as a feared creature of the underworld he can also be considered the damned “Angel of Hell.”

Sonoma State University students were able to get discounted tickets, which was a bonus when purchasing admittance. SRJC Burbank Auditorium ran the production from Nov. 21 to Sunday By its second week running, all of the shows were already completely sold out. 

The efforts put into the making of this production were outstanding. The set design was intricate and changed constantly as each scene progressed. 

There were columns and curtains that framed the illusion of an opera stage within the full stage and the set could be manipulated as it flawlessly morphed into a dungeon, a graveyard, a rooftop and more.

This particular production was very demanding for the Burbank Auditorium, as it is marked a landmark event, and the set design was as immaculate as the costumes created by costume designer Maryanne Scozzari. 

Due to the double-casting, twice as many costumes for the lead actors had to be made. Burbank Auditorium’s Chairwoman, Laura Downing-Lee, had to politely request that all audience members refrain from hugging the actors after the show as to not damage their dazzling garments. According to Downing-Lee, Scozzari worked endless hours for weeks at a time on her costumes. Her professionalism was apparent with the details of perfection.

The live orchestra gave a rich authentic feel to the production as the maestro assisted the symphony in unison with the voices of the actors. Classic favorites such as “Music of the Night” left some audience members tearing up as they felt pity for the Phantom’s cursed life as he longed for love and beauty. 

The voices of the lead actors were promising talent that sounded professional and were truly jaw-dropping. Since opera is such a straining style to sing, the leads were double-casted to ensure the show go on for all 12 performances without a falter.

After the show, there were several cast members in full costume that greeted people in the lobby for photo ops and handouts as they held donation baskets. 

“Every donation that’s put into the baskets as well as all concession sales goes to support our student programs,”said Downing-Lee.

The final performance was on Sunday, as the cast and crew involved strived to go all-out for this production.