"The Phantom of the Opera" just celebrated its 25th anniversary of New York performances, making it the longest running show on Broadway. An estimated 130 million people have seen the show in theaters around the world.
Hereford High School theater students hope to add several thousand people to that total when they present the musical later this month at the Parkton school.
"This is a huge undertaking, but we have the talent to make it work," said Chris Rose, the show's director, who teaches English and theater at Hereford. "We're the first school in Baltimore County to perform 'Phantom' and it will be an exact version of the Broadway show."
He said the musical, which he has seen five times, was first made available to high schools and colleges two years ago.
The production features music composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is based on a novel by Gaston Leroux. It is the story of a masked man who lives beneath the Paris Opera House in the late 1800s. He falls in love with an opera singer and holds her against her will in his underground lair.
Seniors Hudson Imhoff and Brianna Mooney have the lead roles of the Phantom and Christine, the opera singer.
Both have been in Hereford productions for four years. Mooney plans to major in musical theater in college, while Imhoff is hoping for an appointment to the Naval Academy.
"This is my dad's favorite production, and it has always been my dream role," Mooney said. "I just saw it on Broadway this weekend, and I really studied Christine."
Imhoff said he heard the music growing up when his grandfather frequently played the album.
"It's a chilling and beautiful story," he said. "I hope the audience is sympathetic toward the Phantom by the end."
The production also features seniors Jesse Clarke and Zach Robertson as the managers of the opera house who have to deal with the terror caused by the Phantom.
Senior Kaitlyn Fowler plays an opera choreographer. Jessica de Groot, a senior, is a demanding opera singer and Ben Mann, a junior, is her assistant. Senior Keyvon Kaliush is Christine's old boyfriend and Grace Chandler, a senior, plays Christine's best friend.
Since the action takes place in an opulent opera house with a grand staircase as well as in the dark tunnels and rooms beneath it, director Rose had to be creative when designing the sets.
He had help from 15 students in his theater tech class and some volunteers.
"This is the biggest set I've ever helped with in my four years here," said Tyler Wolfe, a senior who is the play's sound and tech director. "Normally we build one platform. With this show, we're doing three, and they're all movable."
The class hammered, sawed and painted several days a week, starting in January, to get the stage ready.
"This is a fun class since we also learn about lights, sound, sets, make-up, hair and costumes," said Chloe Brush, a junior, as she and her sister Kelsey, a freshman, drilled studs to an 8-foot by 4-foot wall. Both girls are also chorus members.
Another group of students traced outlines on Styrofoam blocks that will serve as seven tombstones in a cemetery Christine visits.
Junior Tom Adle's job was to create a framework for a chair that will allow the Phantom to disappear from the stage.