The second dance hall in Ornelas fills up with dancers of all kinds at 8 a.m. each Saturday. The mirrored walls reflect the determination painted on the faces of the 40 or so dancers that have come to practice.
The Phantom of the Opera has drawn a large gathering of fans since its premiere in October of 1986. Over 140 million have seen this musical, and it has grossed over $6 billion. The story, set in Paris, France, is one of love and fear. The Phantom, in love with the beautiful Christine, terrorizes the Paris Opera House until his love is made the lead in a show.
“This will be a first for all of us,” said director Shurrell Wiebe. “I’ve never seen the Phantom of the Opera done as a dance production before. This is going to be told through movement instead of voice. I’m definitely bringing something else to the table with it.”
Wiebe, who was worked at TJC for four years, says she saw the production in New York CIty, and was inspired to adapt it herself.
“I signed up for auditions and everything,” said Chris Fisher, who will play the Phantom. “I got a call about a week or so later asking if I could do Phantom. I was expecting to be one of the managers or something. I didn’t expect to be the lead.”
Fisher enthusiastically agreed, drawing inspiration for the role from Ramin Karimloo, noted for his performance in the role.
“I’m trying to fit that picture of what everyone sees as the Phantom, but you’ve got to be yourself too,” he said.
Michaela Hutchins will play Christine, and is excited to bring her own interpretation of the role to life.
“I’ve never been that and it’s a really wonderful role,” said Hutchins.
Although this production has dancers ranging from younger than 12 and older than 20, the expectations are high for everyone. The actors practice over 25 hours weekly over six days.
“I have very high expectations for these kids,” Wiebe said. “I demand a lot, I expect a lot and they give me a lot. I expect that they learn fast, I expect that they work hard, I expect that they pay attention and remember the choreography and that they perform their best.”
The chandelier hanging in the Paris Opera House is a key prop, and the one to be featured in Phantom of the Opera as told in Dance is being handcrafted by Wiebe’s father, valued at over $1,000.
“The chandelier is absolutely beautiful,” Wiebe said. “It’s being donated to us so that TJC doesn’t have to pay for it.”
The play will premiere Saturday, May 2 at 7 p.m., with a matinee Sunday, May 3 at 2 p.m. The show will be held in Wise Auditorium, and tickets can be purchased at the Wise box office before showtime.