off-Broadway productions here in Northern Michigan.
This week Traverse City-based Miracle Productions will present Yeston & Kopits Phantom at the Milliken Auditorium, located within the Dennos Museum on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College. Phantom will be performed July 17-19 and July 24-26.
I really believe we are the best-kept secret in the area, said Pat Gallagher, co-founder and producer/director of productions at Miracle. These are professional productions that are as good if not better than any of the traveling productions out there.
Gallagher knows talent. She is legendary in local theater circles for overseeing the annual theatrical productions at Traverse City West and Traverse City Central (for the past 21 years), with 35 productions to her credit. She created Miracle Productions with her husband Bernie four years ago because she wanted to give students from the area an opportunity to gain professional experience.
So confident in the talent of students from the region Gallagher invested money from her retirement to launch Miracle Productions.
I cashed in a few things, chuckles Gallagher. But it is important to me that these students who are serious about the performing arts get this opportunity. My biggest expense is paying the royalty fee for the production. My husband and I have yet taken a dollar because we take the proceeds from each year and put it in a six month CD so we have the money for the royalty fee, which is $15,000 this year for the two productions (Youre A Good Man Charlie Brown, will be performed in August).
Equally important to Gallagher is that her performers are paid and treated like professionals.
I pay them all, said Gallagher. This is a professional production and professionals are paid. For me it is very exciting to have students that I have worked with in high school head off to college to further study for a career in the performing arts. All of our performers are high school graduates from the area who are currently in college.
Gallagher said there is a disproportionate amount of talent here in Northern Michigan and her answer as to why is a simple one.
It has to be the water, laughs Gallagher. I dont know to explain it. It is also a credit to the many wonderful teachers we have here, who inspire these young adults.
For Gallagher there is real joy in having her former students come back and perform, along with seeing how their voices and acting skills have matured with age and further education.
I love having them back and seeing what college has done for them because in high school they receive limited voice and stage training and when they head to college or a conservatory they have personal coaches and take several voice and theatrical classes.
Each year Gallagher selects her cast by late winter and rehearsals start in May with the lead characters starting a few days a week.
I start in May because that is when they come back home from school, said Gallagher. While they are getting paid by the production company they also take on traditional summer jobs. As we get closer to a performance we start rehearsing five to six nights a week from 7 pm to at least 11 pm.
Gallagher is assisted by her daughter Erin Cate Peck, who is an instructor of musical theater dance at the Interlochen Arts Camp and also teaches at Ballet Etc. in the fall. Gallagher credits the success of Miracle Productions to both her daughter and also musical director Jeffery Cobb.
It is such a pleasure having Erin work with me, said Gallagher. I cant say enough how blessed we are to have someone of Jefferys talent here in Northern Michigan. Certainly the commitment and professionalism of the performers has also played a crucial role in our success. I cant emphasize enough the level of talent that takes the stage is equal or better than you are going to see anywhere.
As for the actual production, Gallagher emphasizes that the Yeston & Kopit version is different than the one made famous by Andrew Lloyd Weber.
They both have the same story line they just take different approaches in telling it, said Gallagher. Webers approach is more of the violence, gore and horror. We have elements of that in this production but Yeston & Kopits version is more operatic than Webers and delves more into the psyche of the Phantom. This version is safe for families, though I dont recommend it for kids under eight. All of the productions we put on are family friendly.
Phantom stars Hanna Brammer, who is currently attending the Manhattan School of Music, and Trevor Kolle, who is on a full ride scholarship at the Michigan State University studying in the school of music. Both are graduates of Traverse City West and former students of Gallagher.
I dont require the cast to be former students. We have had Interlochen students in the past and this year we have a student from Elk Rapids, said Gallagher. My requirement is that they are in college or some advanced school furthering their training to pursue a career in the theatrical profession. I get students from the area because we are not able to pay for room and board. What is nice is that parents, families and friends get a chance to see how these kids transformed from high school stage stars to true professionals. Also all of these kids will be equity performers someday; some will go on to Broadway, and others will find their success elsewhere.
Phantom opens July 17 and will be performed over the next two weekends. Miracle Productions will return in August with the production of Youre A Good Man Charlie Brown. Tickets for both productions are available online at miracleproductionstc.com or by calling 231-995-1553.