Life imitated art as the Phantom, or Franc D’Ambrosio, chose his own Christine — and Raoul — from master class participants Nov. 10 at Wayne County Community College’s Taylor campus.
The two finalists, Tom Butwin of Troy and Taylor Towers of Trenton, sang a cameo duet from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” during Franc D’Ambrosio’s Nov. 11 concert. Lara Semetko of Grosse Ile Township also was chosen to sing, performing a non-Phantom song at the concert.
D’Ambrosio, who has performed the role of the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” more than 2,300 times during his career, auditioned adult vocalists to perform as Christine and Raoul, the show’s love interest. He selected six participants to attend a master class with him at WCCC Taylor campus Nov. 10, the day before his concert, to cast the cameo duet.
D’Ambrosio said at the master class that the casting came down to “energy.”
“Clearly you can all sing it, clearly you can all act it,” he said. “Now it is just about who we would put together, because ultimately it is that.”
Two men attended the master class, David Musselwhite of Royal Oak and Butwin. Musselwhite said he had sung Raoul’s songs in a cabaret setting to a recorded track, while Butwin, a singer with a rock band, had less exposure to traditional Broadway show tunes, but recently played Jesus in the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” with Stagecrafters in Royal Oak. Musselwhite has played Jamie twice recently in “The Last Five Years.”
Butwin said he performs professionally as a singer, songwriter, guitarist and pianist, acts a little, and studies with a vocal teacher.
Musselwhite, who works as a consultant in risk management and information security, said he does sing professionally in worship services, and is available for booking.
Among the four women in the master class, Towers is currently studying musical theatre at Oklahoma City University, and flew home for this master class and ultimately the performance. She hopes to move to New York City in a year or so.
Semetko is a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where her degree is in voice performance — jazz.
Cammie McGillis of Fraser is a student at Wayne State University in theater and musical theater, and Vanessa Fry of Chesterfield Township is also at Wayne State University, studying dance as well as theater and musical theater.
Towers, who hadn’t been in a master class for two years because of health issues, said nerves were a issue, while Semetko said listening to motivational, positive feedback videos can help her remain focused.
“You are at a certain level, you are doing what you love, singing, you are making art, so that is more than enough,” Semetko said.
McGillis said nerves can work to one’s advantage or disadvantage.
“I try to obviously fuel it to make it better, but I think that I have been auditioning for all sorts of things for acting and singing for seven to eight years now, and it never really gets any less nerve racking, so I just try to fuel that into my energy of my performance.”
Fry said she agreed with McGillis’ assessment.
“For me what helps is trying to get into my character so you can kind of get that out of body experience while you are up there singing so you are not constantly thinking about ‘oh, did he just hear me do that?’ or what face am I making,” Fry said. “It is kind of just happening and you are going with it.”
D’Ambrosio shared anecdotes and advice with the young performers about the casting idiosyncrasies they will encounter in the professional world, including the reality that directors may be casting them in their head for an entire different play than the one for which they are currently auditioning.
“I was auditioning for ‘Miss Saigon’ and they turned me down, and they said, ‘Oh, by the way, you are not right for Chris in ‘Saigon,’ but you want to play the role of the Phantom?’”
He said casting directors and producers may be auditioning for one show, but they are casting 10 in their head.
“You may be going up for one thing that you are not particularly perfect for, but you are possibly going to get another job if you show up and you do a good job,” D’Ambrosio said.