Behind the scenes of the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company’s Phantom of the Opera

PUBLISHED: 15:00 10 July 2015 | UPDATED: 09:05 12 July 2015

Chris Vince as The Phantom and Anna Watson as Christine in the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company's youth production of The Phantom of the Opera

Chris Vince as The Phantom and Anna Watson as Christine in the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company's youth production of The Phantom of the Opera


Chris Vince got wrapped up in his role in the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company’s production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s multi-award-winning musical The Phantom of the Opera. Literally.

Chris Vince has the life mould of his face removedChris Vince has the life mould of his face removed

The 18-year-old has to endure two hours in makeup every day before donning The Phantom’s slicked-back wig and specially-moulded mask.

“I had a professional mould taken of my face. It has to be comfortable to wear and strong enough to be torn off by Christine (the object of his affections), so it’s an ingenious design,” said Chris.

The baritone, currently studying at Suffolk One Sixth Form College, was wrapped in an alginate compound and bandages which then created the life mould of his face. Vacuum-formed masks are made from thin plastic, wired, lined with soft leather and painted so they fit perfectly and can be torn off easily in key scenes.

Chris, who will attend Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London this autumn, first saw the show on Broadway when he was eight.

The masks after sculptingThe masks after sculpting

“It really blew me away and I remember feeling sad for The Phantom for days afterwards.”

Anna Watson, who plays Christine, has been obsessed with the show since seeing it when she was seven and has seen it the same number of times.

“I fell in love with it, the music simply does something to me, especially Music of The Night as it’s so emotional. I used to sing into my mirror at home. Christine is such a strong character with an intricate life. It’s an iconic role, you have to get it right and live up to people’s expectations,” said Anna, who turns 18 during the show’s run.

The Ipswich-based group promise several surprises during its most ambitious show yet.

The cast the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company's youth production of The Phantom of the OperaThe cast the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company's youth production of The Phantom of the Opera

“We have a lot to live up to. Our talented young cast have risen to the challenge and delivered everything we hoped for,” admitted director Rebecca Darcy.

“It’s a demanding score with so many well-known numbers. Nigel Virley, our musical director, has worked brilliantly with the cast to produce strong vocals. He’s also assembled a 15-piece orchestra, the group’s largest ever.”

Costume designers Jeannie Ingram and Cilla Tricker have hired more than 200 professionally made costumes worth more than £40,000 and took two full days fitting out the 37-strong cast.

“It was a challenge. We have a fabulous group of dressers who help to change the actors, as some of the costumes are huge. The masquerade scene looks really impressive with almost the entire cast in elaborate costumes,” added Jeannie.

The huge set, with its opulent Paris Opera House and huge candle-lit underground labyrinth complete with gondola and foggy lake has been designed by Oliver Brett, who directed two of the company’s award winning musicals at the New Wolsey Theatre, Cats and Oliver! and is now studying as a set designer.

For 19-year-old classically trained opera singer Bea Derrick, the chance to combine comedy with the showy role of opera diva Carlotta was one she couldn’t resist.

“Carlotta is full of surprises. She’s such a big character and a vocal challenge as she has to hit a top D and shouts a lot! I love the comedy scenes with the Opera House managers.”

Playing Christine’s lover, Raoul, is Peter Ling, 19, who returned to rehearsals aching all over after completing a charity cycle ride from San Francisco to San Diego last month.

Having played Jean Valjean in Les Misérables at Farlingaye School, he admitted he wasn’t familiar with Phantom or its music.

“Now I sing one of the most famous love duets in musical theatre with Christine, All I Ask of You, which is such a challenge and a real delight.”

Lloyd Webber’s musical opened in London to huge acclaim in 1986 with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman in the leading roles. It went on to win three Olivier awards and, on Broadway, seven Tony awards.

The Phantom of the Opera - Youth Group Production, is at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre, July 15-18.

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