Jennifer Hope Wills, who played Christine on Broadway’s production of The Phantom of the Opera, spent three nights in Hattiesburg working with the cast at Southern Miss. Jennifer held the role for nearly four years, and has won over hearts all over the country in regional performances at some of the nation’s top theatres. Other Broadway highlights of her impressive career include roles in Wonderful Town, as Eileen, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Woman in White, and Beauty and The Beast.
Dr. Taylor Hightower, a faulty member in the vocal department at Southern Miss and former classmate of Wills, made this connection possible. “The opportunity for students engaged in such a monumental production to work with someone who has been a part of the original is an incredible opportunity for them and the School of Music,” Dr. Hightower said about Jennifer Wills’ visit.
Most of Jennifer’s coaching was on students who play the Phantom and Christine, while also helping with the role of Raoul. With her background in voice, she also hosted a voice masterclass with the cast. She holds a Bachelor’s of Music Education from Salisbury State University and a Master’s of Music from Indiana University.
Although her time in Hattiesburg was brief, the impact she brought to the cast was substantial. Ezekiel Andrew, a graduate student who plays the Phantom in the production said, “Her time here was invaluable, priceless. When she closed her eyes, it was like she was on stage again. To have her share that energy and experience with us was invaluable, and we hope to capture that for the audience. She is an amazing and talented woman and we appreciate her taking her time to be here. We learned a lot from her.”
Mike Lopinto, director of the Phantom of the Opera at Southern Miss, said, “She was wonderful, and very giving and free. She was so impressed with the caliber of things at Southern Miss, and was so excited to work with everyone. Her insight to how different shows work was very insightful, and to have someone that has done this before really had a positive impact on the cast. She would have loved to work with everyone individually, and we are all thankful for her time spent with us.”
The show begins on October 26th and runs until November 4th, and buying tickets in advance is highly recommended. With the amount of work this cast has put in, the audience is sure in for an impressive two weekends of performances. Tickets start at $15 and can be purchased at usm.edu/ music/phantom, or over the phone at 800.844.8425 (TICK).