The Phantom of the Opera production of Withington Girls’ School and The Manchester Grammar School

The cast of the Phantom of the Opera and members of the audience

The cast of the Phantom of the Opera and members of the audience - Credit: Archant

‘Angels of Music’ perform for local senior citizens

More than 200 senior citizens from the local community joined invited guests for a spectacular premiere of The Phantom of the Opera (School Production) performed by a talented young cast from Withington Girls’ School and The Manchester Grammar School, with many praising the production saying the standard equalled West End productions.

Buoyed by a personal good luck video message from a group of 27 Phantom actors in the London cast at Her Majesty’s Theatre, the WGS and MGS performers had the audience enthralled as they went on to deliver in Withington’s own ‘theatre-in-the-round’ a splendidly mesmerising version of this iconic Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

More than 100 Withington pupils and staff, accompanied by MGS boys, had worked hard over many months to ensure that against the backdrop of an incredible ‘wow factor’ set, they put on a highly-polished performance – and over three shows which took place over two days, they did not disappoint.

The premiere, held on 3rd July, was a matinee staging for senior citizens from the local area, including from nearby care homes, churches and day centres. The matinee guests were also treated to a tea party served by Withington’s Year 7 pupils as part of the School’s annual Citizenship day initiative, with take-home gifts made and distributed by WGS Junior girls at the end of the performance.

A Withington alumna, Mrs Heather Thompson, who attended the School from 1949 to 1957 and was part of a group from East Didsbury Methodist Church, paid tribute, saying: “The singing was fabulous, as good as any professional production you would see at a theatre in Manchester. You just couldn’t fault it.” Her review was echoed also by Romiley pensioner Mrs Nan Ironside who said: “I go to a lot of musicals in the West End and I can honestly say, if I closed my eyes I could imagine I was there!”

Mr George Howell, of Burnage, commented: “I thought it was unbelievable - fantastic; top marks to everyone involved!”, whilst his wife Mrs Florence Howell acknowledged the contribution of Withington’s orchestra: “They’re hidden from view, but they were absolutely brilliant and should be given credit for the hard work and practice that must have gone into that performance.”

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Now in its 32nd year at Her Majesty’s Theatre, with an audience to date of more than 140 million and having achieved 70 major theatre awards, The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most successful musicals ever staged – but according to Withington’s Director of Music Mrs Gilly Sargent, it is also one of the most challenging.

Said Mrs Sargent: “Rarely performed by schools due to the challenging libretto, orchestral score, varied choreography which demands so many disciplines, endless costumes, incredible staging, props and special effects, this musical has been a real challenge for all involved, both on stage and back stage,” she says. Having herself seen Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera many times, however, the opportunity to produce Withington’s own production of this show was a “dream come true but much bigger and even better than I had ever imagined – every member of the cast, orchestra and crew was just exceptional in their talent and commitment,” she added.

Withington Headmistress Mrs Sarah Haslam said there had been a “wonderful buzz” around the production that would live long in the memory for all involved: “The commitment, ambition, creativity, teamwork and talent have been truly inspiring. The cast and crew truly rose to the challenge of performing this most theatrically and musically demanding of all the stage musicals.”