The magic of the Paris Opera House will be coming to Michigan State University’s Wharton Center this April. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera is the longest running show in Broadway history. The show follows a deformed composer, known only as the Phantom, who falls madly in love with his protégée, Christine Daaé, a chorus girl. As Christine’s fame rises, the Phantom grows jealous of Christine’s suitor and terrorizes the Paris Opera House.
Phantom celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2011 with three sell-out performances at the Royal Albert Hall in London. In 2012, Phantom was reimagined for the 21st century by Cameron Mackintosh. The show was wildly successful in London, with a sold-out tour. The updated Phantom came to America in 2013 and has been on tour since. Morgan Cowling, who plays Meg Giry, says that Cameron Mackintosh’s touring production of Phantom has been popular with the audiences. “It’s really chilling, but magical.”
Cowling took over the role of Meg in November 2014. Meg is daughter of the ballet mistress, the lead dancer in the corps de ballet and Christine’s best friend. When the star of the opera quits, Meg suggests to the theater managers that Christine take over the lead role. “Meg feels like she owns the place,” Cowling says. “She’s the queen of the ballet, and a little mischievous.” Cowling says that in some ways, Meg reminds her of herself. “Playing Meg has reminded me of my own youth. When you’re young, you think you know everything. You think you have everything figured out, even though you have no idea what the world is about.”
Before joining Phantom, Cowling worked for Disney Cruise Lines and was part of the original cast of Disney’s Wishes. Cowling grew up in Australia, and graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, where she studied opera for five years. Cowling says that her love of performing started at a young age. “My mom put me in gymnastics and ballet when I was three. I saw my first show at age five. My mom and I went to see 42nd Street. I could only see half of the stage because there was a beam in the way. That’s how far up our seats were,” she says. “It was magical. It was the first time I remember wanting to be on stage.” Cowling was the drama captain of her high school and has numerous Australian and American show credits. She says that her dream role changes daily, but for now, she is honored to be playing Meg. “Meg has been my favorite character so far. She reminds me of myself, and she’s been a lot of fun to play.”
Cowling says that the updated Phantom is sure to surprise audiences. “The original is absolutely brilliant. When they updated the show, they made changes that would make things more realistic. It’s got this heightened drama to it.” Cowling says that the set has also been updated. There is a lot more prop design, and a new chandelier. “Our director brought in things to be true to the time period. There’s a scene where all the ballerinas are getting ready in the dressing room. We’re helping each other get ready and all in a sort of panic. It really makes it feel like you’re backstage at the Paris Opera.” Cowling says that most of the costumes have stayed the same, and the script has a few changes to help “create the sense of panic that comes with a phantom in an opera house.”
Cowling’s favorite scene, however, is the final one of the show. “This sounds selfish, of course, because I’m in it,” she laughs, “but in our production, the Phantom disappears in a very ‘magical’ way, and Meg gets to help. Meg ends up finding the Phantom’s mask to give to the police officer. It’s a very chilling moment, knowing that the Phantom is so powerful that he could escape an entire police force.” Cowling says that the show has been a hit with audiences thus far, and that she can’t wait to bring the show to East Lansing. “What this production has created is a grand spectacle. It’s taken a beautiful, scary, dark and magical original and just added more. I think the audience will be incredibly surprised by what we’ve done.”
Tickets for The Phantom of the Opera can be purchased online at whartoncenter.com or in person at the Wharton Center Ticket Office. Phantom will run from April 1 through April 12. Michigan State students can purchase up to two tickets for a student rate of $25 each with valid MSU ID. You can keep up with the cast of Phantom by liking the show on Facebook at facebook.com/phantomontour, or by following the show on Twitter or Instagram @phantomontour.
Brittney Urich is a senior professional writing major specializing in marketing and public relations. She is an avid traveler, sports enthusiast and animal lover. When she’s not blogging or reading, she can usually be found outside.