April 18, 2019  

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Broadway Star Coaches Southern Miss Phantom of the Opera Cast

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Broadway star Jennifer Hope Wills is assisting the USM cast of Phantom of the Opera as they prepare for their performances that begin in October.

As The University of Southern Mississippi’s cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mega-hit musical The Phantom of the Opera rehearses for their upcoming opening, they will be guided by a Broadway vet who spent nearly four years playing Christine on Broadway. Jennifer Hope Wills will be in Hattiesburg for several days this week working with the cast and primarily with students portraying the Phantom and Christine.

USM's production of Phantom of the Opera is set for Oct. 26-29 and Nov. 2-4 at the Mannoni Performing Arts Center Auditorium on the Hattiesburg campus.

“The opportunity for students engaged in such a monumental production to work with someone who has been part of the original is an incredible opportunity for them and the School of Music,” said Dr. Taylor Hightower, Southern Miss voice faculty member and a former classmate of Wills, which has made this connection possible.

Wills’ other Broadway credits include her critically acclaimed portrayal of Eileen in Wonderful Town opposite Brooke Shields (New Broadway Cast recording), The Woman in White and Beauty & the Beast. Off Broadway, Jennifer appeared as Della in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at City Center Encores! In New York, Jennifer has been seen in concert at Town Hall, Merkin Concert Hall and Joe’s Pub. Across the country she has headlined with the Omaha, Houston, Portland, Austin and Roanoke Symphonies, to name just a few.

Some of her favorite regional credits include Marian Paroo with several different theatre companies; Magnolia in Showboat and Fiona in Brigadoon (both at Sacramento Music Circus); Maria in The Sound of Music and Julie in Carousel (both at Pittsburgh CLO); Rose in Aspects of Love and Sharon in Finian’s Rainbow (both at Walnut Street Theatre); Guinevere in Camelot; Abigail Adams in 1776; and Eliza in My Fair Lady. 

Originally from the eastern shore of Maryland, Jennifer is from a theatrical family and began her onstage career before her first birthday. She holds an MM degree from Indiana University’s Jacob’s School of Music, where she appeared on the mainstage as Laurey in Oklahoma!, Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore, Papagena in The Magic Flute and Gossip I in only the second production of The Ghosts of Versailles.

The Phantom of the Opera is the most iconic and longest running show on Broadway. Produced at Southern Miss through special arrangement with Rodger and Hammerstein Theatricals, it tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it. He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command. Its sensational score includes “Think of Me,” “Angel of Music,” “Music of the Night,” “All I Ask of You,” “Masquerade” and the title song.

Tickets start at $15 and are on sale now at 800.844.TICK, 601.266.5418 and www.usm.edu/music/phantom. Advance ticket purchases are highly recommended.