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Students step into backstage leadership roles for Glenbrook musical

Glenbrook North High School junior Michayla Van Treeck shows off masks she designed for the spring musical, "Phantom of the Opera." (Jeff Danna, Tribune reporter)

Glenbrook North High School junior Michayla Van Treeck shows off masks she designed for the spring musical, "Phantom of the Opera." (Jeff Danna, Tribune reporter)

Glenbrook North High School students Rachel Samett and Michayla Van Treeck have worked behind the scenes on past theater production’s. But those smaller shows were just preparation for their work on this spring’s large-scale musical, “The Phantom of the Opera.”

“It’s not (been) as intense as this show,” said junior Van Treeck, the show’s costume designer. “It’s almost 100 students in the production.”

The spring musical is an annual tradition that brings together students from both Glenbrook North and South high schools. But this year’s production, which runs through May 6, marks a rare occurrence of students helping with and sometimes leading many back-stage operations, including costume design and choreography.

“We’ve got students running pretty much every aspect of the show,” said vocal music director Chad Davidson.

In past years, the adult directors have either hired outside professionals or relied on staff to helm those tasks, Davidson said. But this year, Glenbrook North had students with past experience who were passionate about choreography and costume design and willing to help with the musical, he said.

Adults were still involved this year. For example, an adult has led a costume design team and training students to do alterations, fittings and other aspects of the trade, Davidson said. In turn, the students teach their peers how to design costumes.

Backstage at a recent rehearsal, Van Treeck reached into a bin and began pulling out masks she had designed for “Phantom”’s masquerade scene. She said she spent about two weeks on the masks and had some help from other students.

Although she has designed costumes for past school productions like “Romeo and Juliet” and “Of Mice and Men,” working on as large a project as “Phantom of the Opera” was particularly rewarding, she said.

She often found herself saying to herself, “Oh, my gosh, they look fantastic on stage,” as she watched her designs become part of rehearsals.

Senior Samett is part of a similar job on the choreography side. Davidson, who described Samett as a “wonderful ballet dancer,” said she handled choreography for the ballet portions of the show, while school staff members put together the more standard dances.

Like Van Treeck, Samett has worked on past school productions. She said she said she has choreographed routines for Orchesis, the high school’s dance group, but nothing on the scale of “Phantom.”

Samett and Van Treeck said they have learned that when working on such a large production, they have to play to the rafters — they dance routines and costumes must have as much of an impact on the people sitting in the upper rows of the theater as the front rows.

The students said their childhood interests led them to their current roles behind the scenes of “Phantom.” Van Treeck said her passions for drawing and clothing brought her into the world of costume design.

“I liked older things and putting my own twist on them,” she said.

Samett grew up dancing and coming up with routines she and her friends would perform.

“Once you get older, you start realizing you’re choreographing and not just making up a silly dance,” she said.

As part of the “Phantom” crew, both students have also learned what it’s like to step into leadership roles. Samett said she has had to balance being a friend to many of the cast and crew members and being their teacher.

But, with nearly two months of rehearsals under their belts, the student leaders have displayed a great deal of maturity, said vocal director Davidson.

“Peer-to-peer leadership can be tricky,” he said. “They’re handling it beautifully.”

“Phantom of the Opera” opens May 2 and runs through May 6. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. each night at Glenbrook North High School. For more information on the production and tickets, go to www.glenbrook225.org/north.

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