The curtain will rise Friday night on the Knoxville High School production of "Phantom of the Opera," a musical that captured the hearts of many of the play's participants when they saw it performed on Broadway last year.
"It was all (the students) talked about," Director Jackie Duffy said of the musical. She did not know if the rights could be obtained to allow the performance in Knoxville, but when she learned it could, she struggled with this performance or "Beauty and the Beast." Ultimately, she went with "Phantom."
"People who come to the show are going to be absolutely amazed," Duffy said. She cannot think of anything that was included in the New York City performance that will not be a part of this weekend's performances at Knoxville Middle School.
This weekend's performances should also mark the final Spring high school musical to be performed at KMS, as the Knoxville Performing Arts Center should be open and available by this time next year. For the many seniors involved, including lead actors Chambray Daugherty and Joe Stearns, this will be the last time they will take the stage for a KHS production.
"I cannot believe that this is my senior year," Daugherty said. "This will be my thirteenth high school musical and I am taking in every moment of it. This musical is perfect for my final performance because it will show all the reasons I love the theater and music."
"It is definitely bittersweet," Stearns added. "I have loved every minute of Knoxville theatre that I have had the privilege to be a part of and want to thank Mrs. Duffy for the countless hours she put in helping us and working with us to make our shows the best they can be. I will miss her, as well as the great group of other students I get to work with."
Duffy said the talent, and contributions to make this show a reality, have come from beyond the walls of the high school. Dawn Flattery designed the set.
"She is so creative," Duffy said.
Jim Oberbroeckling is doing the sound for the show. Jerry Beary, Caprice Daugherty, Susan Mayer, Jerry Ayers, Jeff Sinnard, Gary DeMaria, Roy Provenzano, Gary Bacus and so many other members of the Knoxville community have also stepped forward to make the show a reality.
"Anything I've asked for, they've done," Duffy said. As grateful as she is for the assistance from the community at hand, Duffy is proud of the work her cast and crew have put into the show.
"Ever since Duffy had announced that we were going to do 'Phantom of the Opera' as this year's musical, before Christmas break, I have been practicing songs and watching the movie on repeat," Daugherty said. "It is the most demanding musical that I have done and I want it to be the best it can be, so I make sure to rehearse as much as possible."
Daugherty also commented that Christine, the lead character, is her dream and she is honored to play the role.
"(Daugherty) seems to be about a week ahead of schedule," Duffy said.
"I had to put in a lot of time on my own," Stearns said. "Outside of school, I look at the book and sing and read and play the piano along if there's a part I'm not sure I'm getting. I also have the soundtrack, so I'll listen along with that and have watched numerous performances of it, to get a feel for what the part is like."
Stearns and Daugherty knew the work the musical would require, but they are proud to do it. They also have faith in their fellow castmates, as well as their director.
"Duffy can handle anything that she sets on the table," Daugherty said. "She knew that we could handle this and all of the cast is so excited."
"We've got a lot of people in the right places," Duffy said. In addition to their performances, the students have also spent Saturdays building the set.
The musical will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday night, March 8-9, and a Sunday matinee will be performed at 2 p.m. on March 10. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased at KHS.