The ‘Phantom of the Opera’ comes to BYU

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When BYU does a big production like “The Phantom of the Opera,” there can be as much drama behind the stage as there is on it.

“Phantom of the Opera” was the most expensive show ever done by the BYU drama department, according to Rory Scanlon, professor of theater and media arts. It was also one of the most challenging.

“Every second of the show, something technical was happening,” Scanlon said.

Sam Bostwick played Monsieur Firmin, and Brad Robins played Monsieru Andre. Photo by Chris Bunker

However, Scanlon added that the show, which sold out weeks before it even began its three-week schedule, broke even and then some.

Ken Crossley, the marketing director for the department of theater and music, explained that the chandelier was rented from a company that also came to the theater to properly rig it to the ceiling and practice launching it safely onto the stage.

Scanlon said they also rented a life-size elephant and the flying equipment. The show required a new false floor to be built onto the de Jong stage for set-building.

“Each entity that produces ‘Phantom’ would use the theater as they see fit,” Crossley said.

Doug Olsen, a senior majoring in theater and media arts, designed the sound program for the show. He received an ORCA grant to fly to New York, where he studied the sound effects of “The Phantom of the Opera” Broadway show.

Olsen oversaw the installation of 16 new speakers in the de Jong theater.

“We wanted to be able to surround the audience with the sounds of the phantom or the organ,” Olsen said.

Breckan Gifford and her husband, Josh, drove from Salt Lake to enjoy this surround-sound experience. They had an ulterior motive for the trip however — Gifford’s cousin played the title role.

DeLaney Westfall played Christine Daae  Photo by Chris Bunker

Gifford’s cousin is Preston Yates, the sophomore who played the Phantom. He was a student at the University of Utah, but he transferred to BYU during fall 2012 so he could play the Phantom.

“I think for a university, they’ve done a fantastic job,” Gifford said. “The acting is right on par with Broadway.”

Yates may have played the Phantom on stage, but the music of this organ-playing ghost was actually provided by Seth Bott, a graduate student in organ performance from Utah. Bott played the organ score on the pipe organ in Dr. Cook’s office. Olsen recorded the music and then mixed it in with the live BYU wind symphony.

Although everything from “mixing” together a magical phantom disappearance to the nightly headache of blending four voices at once is a challenge, Olsen was proud of the “overwhelming, body-shaking experience” in the theater.

Becca Clement, a sophomore, played in the BYU wind symphony to bring a 100-page score to the de Jong. However, her favorite on-stage romance required the addition of another player in the twisted love triangle.

“The best ‘Phantom’ performance was when the Phantom proposed to his fiancee,” Clement said.

Preston Yates came from the University of Utah to wreak dramatic havoc in the BYU production of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Photo by Chris Bunker

Following one memorable Saturday night performance, Yates called his girlfriend to the stage and knelt down on one knee.

“Sometimes it’s hard to balance with schoolwork,” Clement said of her participation. “But it’s worth it. How many times in your life are you going to get to be part of something as cool as this?”

Information on tickets can be found at arts.byu.edu.

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