Kelly Critic Review: 'Phantom of the Opera,' Avonworth High School

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"Take your fill, let the spectacle astound you."

Opera. The word that makes so many people yawn and sometimes even cringe. Myself included. Upon hearing that I was to see this show, I was less than enthused.

However I came out of the theater completely thrilled after seeing something so mature and well put together. Avonworth High School took on the immense challenge of performing "The Phantom of the Opera." A production that is so musically intricate is always a challenge, though this hardly deterred the students.

Starring as the mysterious Phantom was last year's Gene Kelly award winner, Nathan Pool. He effortlessly balanced the Phantom's eeriness with his honesty, and captivated the audience. His stellar vocals were matched by his costar Emma Baker, whose strong soprano voice lent itself well to the role of Christine.

"The Phantom of the Opera" is based on the novel by Gaston Leroux that was published in 1909. In 1986, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and co-book writer Richard Stilgoe and lyricist Charles Hart adapted it into the musical we know today. The story of forbidden love is almost entirely sung as it follows events of an 1881 Opera House bewitched by the presence of an unseen phantom.

The Phantom has fallen in love with the chorus member Christine and vows to keep creating disasters if she is not the star of the opera's productions. Christine is in love with the opera's patron Raoul, but values the Phantom for all he has done for her singing. Raoul and the Phantom must fight for Christine's affection.

I was intrigued from the start when a voice came over the theatre speaker to tell us about the cell phone and camera policies. Using comedy to bring the audience into the story was clever. My enthusiasm was slightly spoiled when the massive chandelier rested directly in front of my seat, blocking my view of the stage for the first five minutes. I kept wondering if it were going to rise at all. Luckily it did in a majestic and bright way.

The use of the aisles in the theatre for entrances and exits was unexpected, but it made for a more immersive experience. Another impressive aspect of this production was the quick transitions. This helped in keeping the audience attentive. Even in moments of silence the audience was right there with the characters. The set was simple yet effective and the costumes were cohesive. Overall it was apparent that the cast worked well together.

That they were not only able but also successful in putting together such a challenging show is incredible. Avonworth High School changed my mind about "Phantom of the Opera" and left me wanting more.

"Phantom" ran April 12-20.


The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musicals, in which students at Kelly schools review musicals at other Kelly schools. Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson. First Published April 24, 2013 2:00 PM


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