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White Plains Teen to Star in Stepinac's 'Phantom'

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Chris Guzman, 16, has been studying every rendition of the “Phantom of the Opera” he can get his hands on since he saw his name next to Raoul on the Archbishop of Stepinac High School’s casting list.

The White Plains sophomore hopes to synthesize elements from each performance when he debuts his biggest role yet on the April 27 opening night.

“I started watching them the second Mr. Portanova announced the show. I haven’t seen it live at Broadway, but I’ve watched every possible rendition of it, even if it’s other high schools’ plays on YouTube. I’d like to take a piece of everything and combine it to make one Raoul,” Guzman said.

Guzman has been rehearsing Raoul’s initial skepticism about his childhood sweetheart’s tales of a phantom terrorizing the Paris Opera house where she sings. Raoul eventually sets out to find this “Angel of the Night” and save Christine. However, the phantom catches Raoul and ransoms him off for Christine’s love.

“My favorite scene would be when we’re down in the phantom’s lair. The phantom’s got Raoul and he gives Christine a choice: you stay with me or he dies,” Guzman said. “Christine chose to love phantom for the first time he’s felt love, so that makes the scene really emotional.”

The sophomore has been in White Plains Performing Arts Center productions and Stepinac’s “Twentieth Century,” and “A View From the Bridge.” Last year he played Monsieur D’Arque, an asylum owner, in the high school’s “Beauty and the Beast,” where he schemed to lock away Belle’s father to help her crush blackmail her into marriage.

“With Raoul it’s a new experience because I am always admiring the people on stage who play heroes who you sympathize with. I’ve always wanted to be that and have that effect on people in the audience. So it’s almost like a dream come true,” Guzman said.

Guzman and about 50 other performers have been rehearsing before school, giving up lunch to practice and staying late. Guzman said he has the first of two acts memorized. He’s focusing most on the “All I Ask of You” love ballad and other songs because he has less singing experience.

Keith Sunderland, Stepinac’s dean and drama club producer , said Guzman securing a lead role in his sophomore year is a testament to his talent.

“What’s exciting about having Chris take on such a big role is over the short year and a half that he’s been here, he’s worked up to the big role,” Sunderland said. “For us, it’s exciting to see him develop over a short period and know that he’s still developing.”

The Stepinac Drama Club’s “Phantom of the Opera” spring performances coincide with the 25th anniversary of Broadway’s longest running musical. Tickets go on sale April 2 for the April 27 to May 6 performances. Admission is $18 for adults and $12 for seniors and children 12 or under. Reserve your tickets by calling (914) 946-4800 ext. 200.

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