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Hold onto the chandelier ‘The Three Phantoms’ are here

Image taken from Ball State University
Image taken from Ball State University

What does a dropping chandelier, a demon barber, and a french revolution have in common? Each of them are parts of musicals featured in Orchestra Indiana’s Emens Auditorium performance of The Three Phantoms on Nov. 12th led by conductor Matthew Kramer. The orchestra is composed of a merger between Muncie Symphony and Marion Philharmonic, created in March 2022 to redefine the orchestra experience. They were accompanied by vocalists Craig Schuman, Gary Mauer, and Keith Buterbaugh, each of whom have taken the role as The Phantom on Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera.

The musical, known for its record breaking run of 35 years on Broadway, has cemented itself in history and become a symbol of musical theater. With the final on Broadway New York show being ran in February, this Orchestra Indiana  performance is a close to home way to celebrate Andrew Lloyd Weber’s compositions among other famous musical theater staples. 

Unmasking these phantoms

Each vocalist included in The Three Phantoms each have made a name for themselves on Broadway for more than just the role of The Phantom. However, Craig Schulman has the most impressive resume of them all. He’s the only actor in the world to have portrayed the lead roles in Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and Jekyll & Hyde. With over 2,500 performances of Jean Valjean under his belt, which he reprised shortly during his rendition of Bring Him Home from Les Miserables. Schulman put power behind the role, truly taking on little quirks of the character and drawing in the audience. He was Jean Valjean on the stage of Emens and he did not need a costume or a French backdrop to prove it. 

Image taken from Oxford Mail

Gary Mauer also reprised a career defining role during The Three Phantoms with his performance of Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say) a song from Jesus Christ Superstar, another well-known composition of Andrew Lloyd Weber. Before he gave what I would argue is the most stellar performance of the night, Mauer shared a heartwarming story of his ‘big break,’ where he landed the role of Jesus Christ in a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar for a show in Arizona thanks to a cassette tape audition his girlfriend (the same girlfriend that would later play opposite of him in Phantom of Christine Daae for a number of years) told him to send it. It was that role that got him an audition in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber himself and the rest is history. His vocals were the strongest the entire night. Captivating in the best possible way. 

Another story of how roots were established came from Keith Buterbaugh just before he performed two songs from Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. However, I didn’t feel like these two performances were his strongest of the night. He is known for his role as Judge Turpin in the musical, but it was his duet alongside Schulman during Lily’s Eyes from The Secret Garden that showcased the mightiness of his voice. There was more of a traditional belt to his voice. Chest-voice driven with brassy style to it that could have filled the theater without an amplification at all. 

The music of tonight

Orchestra Indiana put their all into every piece. No one section out does the other. They blend perfectly, as any good orchestra should, to bring these pieces to life. Conductor Kramer works well with the musicians and the performers.

Image taken from The News & Observer

Not only does he contribute to some of the antics of the performers, but he shows his talents as a conductor by knowing exactly how to play to each of the performers strengths. When to let the music shine and when to let the vocals take flight. Selections from Phantom of the Opera were saved for the end of the performance, but you would not have been able to tell in the slightest. The first notes were played with such a fervor. It was as though a new fire had been lit up underneath them. Not that they were tired before, but the passion for the musical translates beautifully through each crescendo. Another note of strength for the instrumentalists would be their selections from Les Miserables. Do You Hear the People Sing started quiet with the plucking of violin and grew into a mighty blend of instruments, a beautiful reimagination of how to mimic the way actors would typically perform the number.


Seize the Daae

The main pull of the show, of course, is The Phantom of the Opera, but it doesn’t predominate over the entire show. They use The Music of the Night as a running gag throughout the show. Each of the vocalist attempts to perform the song solo and take the stage for themselves, intertwining humor into a night most people would brush off as being high class. Not only that, but they also manage to bring the full effects of musical theater to life without needing an expansive set or full cast. When the three of them first came out on stage for a rendition of Fugue for Three Tinhorns from Guys and Dolls I was a bit nervous. It took a few moments for them to find consonance with each other, the orchestra, and the audience. There's a light use of props, relying mainly on the magic of the score and power in the vocalists singing to create the tone. The three played off each other well. Standing on the Corner showed just that. Their harmonies were impressive and their humorous natures were infectious. Watching them makes it hard to not enjoy yourself. 

Curtain call

The Indiana Orchestra truly lives up to their mission statement of redefining the orchestra experience. They allowed both the instrumentalists and performers to shine equally throughout the show. It was a wonderful way to spend an evening, and I would highly recommend going to see future performances but on by them.


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Ball State, Oxford Mail, The News & Observer