Harbor Country Opera presents ‘Les Miserables,’ ‘Phantom’

Published 9:34 am Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tenor Emanuel Caraman will be performing the part of The Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera” (Submitted photo).

Tenor Emanuel Caraman will be performing the part of The Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera” (Submitted photo).

THREE OAKS, Mich. — Fantine, Éponine and Valjean arrive in Heaven to join the spirits of those who died at the barricades.

“Do you hear the people sing?” they thunder. “Singing a song of angry men? It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again!”

They rejoice in jubilation, “There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes!”

The curtain draws as the audience applauds and prepares for the shift that is about to occur. Only a few short minutes later, the curtain reopens to reveal a crowd of nervous actors and actresses. “The Phantom!” they whisper. “He’s here!”

That’s the idea behind Harbor Country Opera’s “Les Mis and The Phantom in One Night,” premiering at the Acorn Theatre July 10.

In one night, theatergoers will be able to see and hear the greatest highlights from two of the most successful stage productions of all time, “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Misérables.”

This format was the brainchild of Harbor Country Opera producers Robert Swan and John Concepcion.

“This is kind of for people that love all of the best music in each play and want to hear it again,” Swan said.

Rather than a large production with sets and props for each play, the actors and singers will perform on a blank stage, dressed in all black with only essential costumes, such as the Phantom’s mask.

The music, said Concepcion (who also serves as director), will be the main focus of the performance.

“It’s a concert performance of the shows,” he explained. “The dialogue will just be a vehicle to convey the story … since everything is stripped away, what you’re really hearing is the voice and the music.”

Swan and Concepcion have known each other for about 20 years, and they have both been with Harbor Country Opera since it began 10 years ago. They each have extensive resumes that include producing, acting, and singing in hundreds of performances, both on stage and in television and movies.

As they were thinking about producing either “Phantom” or “Les Mis,” they came up with the idea to perform them both in one night.

“I adapted the scores down to about an hour each,” Concepcion said. “I wanted to tell the stories without just singing the songs, so I pieced together some narration in between the numbers for ‘Les Mis.’ ‘Phantom’ was a little easer because there was already existing dialogue.”

The cast includes tenor Darrell Rowader as Jean Valjean, tenor Emanuel Caraman as The Phantom and soprano Martha Cares as Fantine. In addition to directing and producing, Concepcion will also have a few singing roles in “Les Misérables.”

With the exception of a few actors playing principal roles in each production, the majority of the performers will appear in both “Phantom” and “Les Mis.”

“Most of the cast will be performing double duty,” Concepcion said.

Accompanying the cast will be a rather unusual piece of hardware: a 1930s Barton Organ.

The organ, Swan explained, provides not only music for the performance, but also sound effects such as horses, doors closing and storms. It was designed and built before movies had sound.

“There are only a couple people left that know how to write music for silent movies,” Swan said.

Long after it was built, a computer was added, giving the organ what is perhaps its most impressive feature: it does not have to be manned during the live performance.

“It has a memory feature,” Swan explained, which means that someone can sit and record the timing of all the music and sound effects during a rehearsal, then just hit ‘play’ during the performance.

Both Swan and Concepcion are excited to perform such a unique and substantial performance.

“I normally do about three or four shows,” Swan said. “But I’m kind of mustering my resources and putting everything into this one thing.”

“I’m eager for people to see it,” Concepcion agreed. “The Acorn is a great space.”

The performances will be July 10 and 11, at 8 p.m. at the Acorn Theatre. Tickets are $25-$35 and can be purchased at acorntheatre.com. Acorn Theatre is located at 107 Generations Drive in Three Oaks.