After months of hard work, long rehearsals and dedication, the Senior School musical production of The Phantom of the Opera debuts at the McPherson Playhouse in less than two weeks.
This week, the SMUS News site introduces you to Emma Heusser and Victoria Schickhoff – the two Grade 12 students who are sharing the lead female role of Christine Daaé. Neither of the actors, as you’ll read very soon, have ever been in a musical or done much performing in front of large crowds.
What are your backgrounds in theatre or doing musicals?
Emma – I ride competitively; I do dressage – but that’s about it. I have never really performed in front of anyone. My family didn’t even know I could sing.
Victoria – I have been taking singing lessons for four years now, but I’ve never been part of a show. I’ve had a few recitals in my singing teacher’s studio and I have a dance background, but there were never really performances there either. So for both Emma and I, it’s the first time singing or acting in front of an audience.
So how do you take the leap and go from no experience in a musical to vying for the lead role in The Phantom of the Opera?
Victoria – Music is such a huge part of my life and my main focus for singing is opera, so I knew if I was to ever be in a musical, it would be The Phantom of the Opera. I’ve loved that particular piece for years now, and because I’m in Grade 12, this was the last time where I have the opportunity to do something like this in a safe environment, and I’ll be doing it with friends and I’ll have a lot of fun while doing it, so I thought, ‘I might as well go for it.’
Emma – I had a lot of friends and (choir teacher) Mr. Butterfield encouraging me to go for the musical. I don’t know why I went for Christine; I knew it was within my capabilities and I wanted to see how I could do. Christine is kind of introverted, and I’m really shy and introverted, so for me it was a good role because it could get me out performing in front of everyone, but also stay somewhat within my comfort zone of playing that shy and curious character.
What is Christine like as a character?
Victoria – She starts off as this really naive and innocent girl, and throughout the play she is maturing through the whole experience. At first she sees only the good in people, which is a good characteristic, but then you see that she’s starting to understand what’s going on behind people. She starts to question things on her own and she starts taking a stand instead of letting people make decisions for her.
How do the two of you play the role of Christine differently?
Emma – Because Victoria, in my opinion, isn’t as introverted as I am, her character has a little more attitude than mine does. She doesn’t come across as quiet or shy as mine.
Victoria – When I watch Emma, I feel like she is Christine. She’s just a really sweet person, and she looks at everything and sees the beauty in it. When I watch her in the scene where the Phantom and Christine go down into the dungeon for the first time, and Christine is just looking around at the everything, I really love how Emma is just looking around like a kid in a toy story.
What has the experience been like, putting on a musical at SMUS?
Victoria – I really think it’s been a good experience. I only knew a few people in the musical before this, so I’ve met so many new people. And I’ve really enjoyed, when we’re getting to rehearse as the leads, just sitting by piano, singing the songs and having the time to bond over music, which we all love. But it’s also been very busy because we’re rehearsing seven days a week, and of course you still have school. But I’ve really learned how to manage my time.
Emma – It’s been great. Getting to know all the people we’re working with is really nice because a lot of times you don’t get to mix with other grades just because of school dynamics, so the musical is a really great opportunity to do that. It’s hard though; there’s a lot of work that goes into it, and you have to dedicate a lot of time, as well as balancing a lot of academics.
What have you learned about yourself through this demanding process?
Emma – Well, I’ve learned that I’m actually pretty determined. There were a number of people who said to me that this would be much too much for me to do, just because I have so much on my plate. But I wanted to do it, and I’m really determined to make it work.
Why should people come see The Phantom of the Opera?
Emma – I think that it being a high school production makes it something to see. Phantom isn’t commonly done in high schools, so that sets SMUS apart from a lot of school musicals. And it’s really well done; the cast is phenomenal, we have an amazing music director and our producer is great.
Victoria – The most interesting part about it is Christine, herself, is possessed by the Phantom and his music, but sitting in the audience, you’re drawn in, as well, in the same way. It’s such an incredible piece with so many layers, in terms of music and acting and what is felt behind it. And as much fun as we are having putting the show on for people, I really think that it will be the same for the audience to watch it.
The Phantom of the Opera runs nightly at 7:30 p.m. from February 25-27, with a 2 p.m. matinee on February 27. Click here for tickets and more information.
Want to read about some of our past musicals? Last year, the Senior School put on Legally Blonde, while the Middle School performed The Wizard of Oz. In 2014, Spamalot was the Senior School production, and in 2013 we were treated to The Secret Garden at the Senior School, and Annie at the Middle School.