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The Phantom of the Opera


Brendon Walmsley and Lisa Skerman

Arthur Johnson, JS, Alison Valette, Lorraine Fuller

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The Phantom of the Opera

Dates: 03/04/2014 - 13/04/2014

Location: Empire Theatre, Toowoomba


Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Charles Hart
Additional Lyrics by Richard Stilgoe
Book by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Based on the novel "Le Phantome de L'Opera" by Gaston Leroux

Presented by Heritage Bank and The Empire Theatre

Bendon Walmsley The Phantom
Lisa Skerman Christine Daae
Zach Denman Raoul
Robert Williams Monsieur Firmin
John Maskell Monsieur Andre
Vicki Bravery Madame Giry
Shannon Gralow Meg Giry
Cherie Vera Charlotta Guidicelli
Nick Kirkup Ubaldo Piangi
Ryan Gornall Monsieur Reyer/Auctioneer
Reeve Waugh Joseph Buquet
Richard Chiverrell Monsieur Lefevre/Don Attilo
Joel Phillipe Jeweller/Passarino
Ian Kammholz Hairdresser
Pam Peterson Madame Firmin/Confidante
Leona Carter Wardrobe Mistress
John Senczuk Director/Designer
Lorraine Fuller Musical Director
Alison Vallette Choreographer
Timothy Panitz Lighting Designer
Steve Alexander Sound Designer
Arthur Johnson Vocal Coach
Claire Bourke Stage Manager
Debra Nairn Costume Master
Robert Darvall Head of Construction
Mary Quade Assistant Designer
Kerry Saul Producer
Repetiteur Tonia Paroz
  Christine Lebsanft

ENSEMBLE: Jesse Ainsworth, Benjamin Apsey, Lisa Brown, Kyle Dever, Sarah Holcombe, Evan Hollis, Justin McGovern, Anna Marangelli, Deanne Nairn, Kaityln Orange, Tarnya Smith, Bria Valderrama, 

BALLET: Isabella Hood, Lucinda Sterling, Chloe Dalmaris, Sarah Pscoe, Eve Murphy, Matilda Hodgen, Georgia Manthey, Kyra Radke


Theatre, oh theatre, how I love you in all your moods and guises. I’ve been in love with you for many years – too many to recall – and I’ve never lost the excitement and the anticipation of the magic that is made present from talent, sweat and tears. A group of strangers come together to experience something only fully realised in the dynamic of a single moment of pure community. The theatre is also powerfully transformative of individuals and communities small and large. Playwright Arthur Miller once noted that the theatre is the place where strangers come together in a civilising act as important as road and bridge building. Maybe it’s because of the power theatre holds that, throughout history, it’s been one of the first agencies to be closed down by repressive regimes.
Individuals and communities can be changed – are changed – when they come together to be refreshed and renewed, to be inspired, to laugh, to weep, and to think out loud in front of themselves – that last one from Martin Esslin, another great of the theatre. This communing was something I experienced afresh last Thursday night at the opening of the Empire Theatre’s production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe’s classic of the modern musical theatre, The Phantom of the Opera.
The production is the biggest ever attempted by the Empire Theatre which, every year since 1999, has produced a community musical. These events are supported enthusiastically by the Toowoomba arts and business community – there’s that word again – and for good reason. They are high-profile, professionally-staged productions that use the glorious space that is the Empire Theatre. How lucky are we! I understand from the theatre management that tickets for The Phantom … are approaching the 8,000 sold mark. It’s a metric that they are proud of and, indeed, they should be. I’m imagining that it’s almost sold out as I write this. Word of mouth is it’s an unmissable show, and I have to agree.
There was a palpable air of pride on opening night at the pre-show, interval and after-show receptions in the restored Church Theatre that snuggles up beside the ‘big house’ auditorium. ...
And so there I was on Thursday night surrounded by a full-house of first-nighters composed of my community and some out of towners – all lovers of theatre and supporters of something we value enormously – and in acknowledgement of guest-director and designer John Senczuk‘s production of
The Phantom of the Opera. It is beautifully designed and staged, and the experienced and very sure hand of Mr Senczuk, aided by assistant designer Mary Quade, is at work in every scenic detail – from colour-ways, costume designs, and the rhythm and energy of set changes and cast movements on and off stage.
Lighting Designer Timothy Panitz and Sound Designer Steve Alexander lead their teams in defining and amplifying the worlds of 1919 and 1875 Paris – in the corridors, rooms, stage and roof of the Paris Opera House and the underground lair of the Phantom. I felt for the first time that the scope of the stage and the ways and means of the Empire’s superb technical facilities were utilised fully. Gotta love imaginative staging with a fly-tower and a revolve at your disposal, and techs and mechs who know and love how to drive their toys!
Completing the creative leadership of the production are Lorraine Fuller and Alison Vallette as (respectively) Musical Director and Choreographer for the production, and Arthur Johnson as vocal coach – all highly-regarded and experienced local artists. Ms Fuller’s baton and reassuring leadership in the pit gave full throat to Lloyd Webber’s terrific music. Yes, we did resist singing along but how good to hear that well-known score swell out LIVE. It was a terrific sounding accompaniment to the singing and dancing. Ms Vallette has choreographed dance and movement sequences which range from modern-feeling routines (‘Masquerade’) through to classical ballet, and they are artistically and technically spot on. By the way, I loved the cheeky Degas referencing in the large painting that dominates the dance-class sequences. The artist himself could be seen at work in some of the scenes! Nice touch Mr Senczuk!
And the big cast? Brendon Walmsley, who is known to many as a professional singer of country and western music, is impressive in a cross-over musical theatre role as the Phantom. His interpretation of the lyrical musical lines is not as romantic as those of ’other Phantoms,’ especially in the by now familiar recorded versions, but it is individual and gutsy and his! He is no slouch in the acting stakes either – there is no doubting his love and anguish for Christine, and Mr Walmsley really does know how to take and dominate the stage when he needs to. I hope we see more of his musical theatre work in the future.
Lisa Skerman, like many on stage in this production, is a veteran of the Empire stage at the ripe old age of 20-something. Her performance as Christine Daae is a breakthrough and a revelation; the audience fell in love with her vulnerability from the start. From the first note of the fiercely difficult ‘Think of Me’ audition song, Ms Skerman stamps her authority on the role and leads the way. Zachary Denman looks, sounds and performs equally confidently, and in top form as Christine’s childhood friend and lover Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, while Cherie Vera who sings like a dream, is also a delightfully preposterous opera diva Carlotta Guidicelli, aided and abetted by the comic trio of Robert D Williams, Jon Maskell, and Nick Kirkup.
... It’s a terrific production.

     Kate Foy, ActorsGreenroom


Empire strikes theatre gold with Phantom, The Chronicle 22 August 2013

Creative Team Announced, The Chronicle 19 October 2013

Local Country Singer to Play Phantom, The Chronicle 15 November, 2013

Man Behind the Phantom Magic, The Chrinicle 15 February, 2014

Cherie Vera [Carlotta] - ABC Interview

Backstage Trailer