Performing Arts: Phantoms of the Opera at MSC OPAS

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In the 40 years of MSC OPAS at Texas A&M University, The Phantom of the Opera has been the most desired, yet most unavailable, performance.

Performing Arts: Phantoms of the Opera finds a new home with MSC OPAS.

by Sarah Kinzbach

In the 40 years of MSC OPAS at Texas A&M University, The Phantom of the Opera has been the most desired, yet most unavailable, performance. Until now. On April 4-5, Left Field Productions, Neil Berg, Adam Friedson and MSC OPAS will welcome to Rudder Auditorium the world-premier performance of Neil Berg’s The Phantoms of the Opera.

Directed by three- time tony Award nominee Marc Kudisch, the performance will bring to the Brazos Valley a cast of seven Broadway actors, a chorus of 200, and a new spin on the most successful musical of all time.

“A&M has never produced a performance before,” explains Anne Black, msc oPAs executive director. “The show will be built and premiered at Rudder and then tour. It’s very exciting!”

Anne Black, MSC OPAS executive directorThe idea for a Phantom performance originated with an advisory committee discussion about the 40th anniversary season schedule. “A program we’ve never been able to get is Phantom of the Opera, but it’s always at the top of the audience’s list,” says Black. A call to Neil Berg culminated in an original concert production created especially for the OPAS audience. “The OPAS audience will love it for many reasons,” says Black.

With MSC OPAS owning the show, the organization stands to receive royalties from tour performances as well. “Listening and watching all the players and their creative process has been fascinating,” says Black. “If I could wake up tomorrow and start my career over, it would be as a producer.”

Neil Berg’s rendition of the performance will provide the audience with an insight and understanding of how the Phantom legacy came into existence. The original novel by Gaston Leroux was first published as a serial tale from 1909 to 1910. Following the string of Gothic tales such as Frankenstein, Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Phantom of the Opera had little success or popularity until the 1925 silent-film adaptation starring Lon Chaney.

Although a number of performances continued to appear on stage and screen, Ken Hill’s production in 1976 and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 Broadway hit brought the tale to international acclaim and glory. Webber’s Phantom of the Opera is the longest- running production in Broadway history.

Combining the numerous renditions into one production, Neil Berg’s Phantoms will be a tale spanning a century of performances. “The audience will learn that there were many other great musicals written…but because they never played Broadway, they never got the acclaim like Webber’s,” explains Berg, the show’s creator, producer and musical director. “What separates our [performance] is world-class entertainment exploring all these different versions plus a few of the novelty versions that weren’t as successful.” One such novelty version is Phantom of the Paradise, a 1974 cult- classic film nominated for a Golden Globe and Academy Award. Additionally, the musical comedy Phantom of the Country Palace will be featured in Berg’s version.

From Left: Marc Kudisch, Director; David Kipp, TAMU Director of Singing Cadets; Neil Berg, Producer“There are a lot of ties to Texas,” says Berg, referring to Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit’s Phantom, which was first presented in Houston in 1991 and had more than 1,000 productions. Additionally, Phantom of the Paradise filmed various scenes at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas.

Musical numbers will include songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway hit, but “It’s not only that,” stresses Berg.

Among the Broadway cast coming to Rudder is Brad little, who has more than 3,000 Phantom of the Opera performances; Sandra Joseph, a 10-year veteran with Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera cast; and Danny Zolli, the Broadway tenor best known for his performances in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar.

“This is entertainment at its biggest and its best,” says Berg. “I am so excited for people to witness something as awesome as this is going to be.”

Tickets are now available at the MSC Box office by calling (979) 845-1234, and online at www.mscopas.org.