"Phantom" Set for Southern Miss Stage

Theater patrons in South Mississippi will soon thrill to another epic production from the team that produced the much-acclaimed Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera will take to the stage of the Mannoni Performing Arts Center Auditorium October 26 through November 4, presented by The University of Southern Mississippi School of Music.

In this talented team Director Dr. Mike Lopinto is joined with music direction by Dr. Jay Dean and Dr. Michael Miles.  The production will feature a cast of talented acting, singing and dancing students from Southern Miss School of Music and the venerable USM Symphony Orchestra in an elaborate spectacle.

“The ability to produce a musical of this caliber and scale is a testament to the incredible combination of a wonderful creative team in cooperation with a talented faculty and staff that is gifted with some of the most versatile and dynamic performers,” said Dr. Richard Kravchak, director of The School of Music.

Phantom of the Opera is the most iconic and longest running show on Broadway. Produced through special arrangement with Rodger and Hammerstein Theatricals, it tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it.

He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command. Its sensational score includes “Think of Me,” “Angel of Music,” “Music of the Night,” “All I Ask of You,” “Masquerade” and the title song.

Tickets start at $15 and are on sale now at 800.844.TICK, 601.266.5418 and usm.edu/music/-phantom. Advance tickets are highly recommended.

About the Phantoms

Harlan Mapp is a master’s student in vocal performance from Hattiesburg. His first foray into musical theatre came in 2013 while studying with Southern Miss alumna, Meredith Johnson, at Jones County Junior College.

“She told me that I should audition to be part of the Theatre department's upcoming production of A Christmas Carol,” he said. “ I wasn't exactly sure that it was something I wanted to be involved in after just coming back to school at the age of 23 after a five-year hiatus from being in school.”

In his first big production, he was cast as Scrooge – the lead.

“It was exhilarating and scary at the same time. She believed in me though and helped me along the way in finding my legs on stage and my voice.”

He came to Southern Miss because of proximity to his mother, to whom he attributes his successes, two close friends were also attending, and he wanted to study voice with Dr. Maryann Kyle to prepare himself for success in life as vocalist, whether in front of the classroom as a teacher or on the stage as a performer.

He auditioned to be part of Phantom because he knew, regardless of the role in which he was cast, Andrew Lloyd Weber had created a masterpiece that it would be an honor to a part of. He knew that with the people in charge of this production and the backing of the University, this particular production would be truly phenomenal.

“My entire educational career has had small glimpses of Phantom intermingled in many different facets,” he said. It's as if years of musical experience have prepared me for the chance to take part in this spectacular show. I couldn't miss this chance – and let's be real, who doesn't want the chance to play Phantom?!”

Although he is looking forward to being able to perform this iconic role and feel the audience as they experience the many different levels of theatrical ingenuity that are coming together for this production (falling chandeliers, pyrotechnics, floating boats and more), what he is most looking forward to is his own growth as a performer.

“I am graced with the task of bringing to life a character that so many have grown up with and know so well,” he said. “This rehearsal process is an opportunity for me to work beside my friend, Ezekiel Andrew, in becoming the Phantom and everyone is bringing their “A game,” which inspires a higher level of rehearsal preparation and will ultimately make this show truly amazing for the Hattiesburg community.”

Ezekiel Andrew from Greenwood grew up in a musical family. His father is a gospel singer and minister that had him around music at church all of the time. He was first exposed to other musical styles in high school when his instructor noticed that he had the potential to perform more classical-style music and excel in it. His first piece was the song "Ol’ Man River" from the musical Showboat. It was this song that took him to the Mississippi School of the Arts (MSA) in Brookhaven.

“It was here that my life would change and the vast world of opera and musical theater would become available to me,” he said.

Ironically, The Phantom of the Opera was the first piece of music Andrew was given when he arrived at MSA.

“I have truly flourished at Southern Miss,” he said. “Pursuing my master’s in music marks a major shift and turning point in my life. Under the guidance of Dr. Maryann Kyle, I have gone farther and have achieved so much more than I dreamed possible.”

He auditioned for this show because it had always been one of the roles he wanted to do. After seeing it on Broadway in 2008, he still remembers just how grand and majestic it was. Recently, African-American actor Norm Lewis became the first person of color to play the role on Broadway.

“That was huge for me and gave me courage to seek roles that aren't traditionally cast African-American,” Andrew said.

He most enjoys the music of the show, calling it, “dramatic, dynamic, and expressive, with a wide array of dynamics and intensities that keeps one engaged from the first downbeat to the very last.”

He is also looking forward to the gondola ride with Christine during the title song, "The Phantom of the Opera" and to see the chandelier come crashing down!

They both agree that audiences should expect to be changed by what they see. It is a unique chance for Hattiesburg as the Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company is pulling out all the stops to make this a memorable moment. Expect to be wowed!

The Phantom of the Opera is presented with support from the Southern Miss Alumni Association. It opens Oct. 26 and continues for six performances only through Nov. 4.