Grand Theatre's High School Project celebrates 25 years

A photo of the cast of the High School Project's The Phantom of the Opera. CREDIT: THE GRAND THEATRE
Beginning Sept. 9, you can catch The Phantom of the Opera at The Grand Theatre as part of the theatre's annual High School Project.

The Grand Theatre has been holding its annual High School Project (HSP) for 25 years, and what better way to celebrate this milestone than with an iconic musical like The Phantom of the Opera?

The musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber will take to the Spriet Stage from Sept. 19 to Oct. 7. Phantom famously played on Broadway for 35 years before recently closing in April 16, making it the longest running show in Broadway history. Its closing paved the way for young people across the world to now stage productions of the show, and for Director Andrew Tribe, there is no better place than the Grand.

“The idea that the Grand itself is this old, haunted opera house…there was something fitting about doing the production here,” Tribe said. “There’s something really beautiful about knowing that the next kind of life of this show is at the Grand.”

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The HSP offers an opportunity for students to receive education and training in the working environment of a professional theatre, at no cost to the participants. High school students from the London area are mentored by professional artists and coaches in all departments over several weeks. The students and the youth of the production are the real highlight for Tribe. For Tribe, it all comes down a “moment of discovery or a moment of grace” for the students.

Tribe noted that because of the show’s long history and iconic set pieces and staging, many audience members will be coming with an idea in their minds of what they’ll be seeing.

“There’s a certain grandeur to the show that requires large set pieces and costumes to tell the story and a certain expectation when people come and see it,” Tribe said.

Such an exemplary production can be expected to take a lot of time to bring to life. The expectations from those who have seen Phantom of the Opera previously, must be at an alltime high. Tribe acknowledged how much effort each department has put into this production, not only the actors that will be seen on stage, but everyone else that had a part to play in making this into a reality.

Cast member Emma Bishop, who plays the lead role of Christine, said that this character is the rising star of the opera in the production.

“This is only really thanks to the help of this secret voice that she hears coaching her in the night, who is quickly to be revealed as the phantom of the opera,” Bishop said.

Bishop said that theatre is the industry she wants to be in for her future and that being cast in this role has immensely helped her to expand on her talent but also described it as a taxing role.

One of the members from the company Tristan Brew, shared that in his opinion, “this is going to probably be one of the best plays that he’s seen at The Grand by students.”

Brew explained that there are a variety of emotions that can be felt throughout the show through both the music and the acting. Highlighting his favorite music in the production, “The Music Of The Night,” he also said that his favorite part of the show is when everyone comes to the stage and sings “Masquerade/ Why So Silent.”

For someone who hasn’t seen The Phantom of the Opera, Tribe described it as “a horror story, but it’s also a romance as well.”

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