Norwich stages 'Phantom' this weekend

NORWICH – When Mark Sands saw “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Pantages Theater in Toronto a decade ago, he made a mental note to himself: “Someday, I’m going to do this.”

That day has come. The high school music teacher will direct the smash hit Broadway musical this weekend as the Norwich High School Musical Club stages “Phantom” Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30, and Sunday afternoon at 2:30.

Norwich is well-known for its high-quality musicals each spring, but this year’s selection sets the county seat’s school in a class by itself, literally. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic production – one of the most successful and longest-running musicals of all time – has only been performed by 60-odd high schools in the nation, ever. And Norwich is only the second in central New York to take it on.

“After the success of ‘Les Miserables’ last year, I thought, ‘Where do we go from here?’” the veteran NHS director said. “I wanted to keep that level of professionalism that we’re known for, and set the bar even higher.”

That’s what Sands and crew have done, literally. Aside from its celebrated musical score, “Phantom” is known for a slew of special effects often considered out of reach for high school musicals. But the Norwich troupe has risen to the challenge – and the rafters – in bringing “Phantom” to life on the Tornado stage this weekend. To grasp a hint of the spectacle of this show, imagine a 90-pound chandelier crashing from ceiling to stage in a climactic “Phantom” scene, or a gondola rowed across a river of fog. “This has really been a team effort,” Sands said, noting contributions not only from lighting designer Matt Grenier, vocal coach and orchestra leader Mary Mayo and dance instructor Travis St. Denny, but also the whole buildings and grounds department at the high school, whose talents and resources were tapped to bring several of “Phantom’s” storied effects to life.

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