Lead role in ERCT’s ‘Phantom’ is thrill for teen actress

At rehearsal, Kristen Rokke as Christine is mesmerized as Josh Smith as The Phantom sings “Music of the Night” to her. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

by Bruce Strand, Arts editor

Kristen Rokke, a community theatre veteran at age 17, has earned her first lead, and it’s a plumb role if there ever was one.

“I am beyond excited,” said the senior-to-be about playing Christine Daae, in “The Phantom of the Opera,” the Andrew Lloyd Weber masterpiece that’s rarely available to amateur groups and was snapped up by Elk River Community Theatre, in conjunction with Elk River High School, when it was made available this summer. “Not many actors get a chance even to be in ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ let alone be the lead. I am really looking forward to opening night.”

“Phantom,” directed by Eileen Bowersox, will open July 22 at Zabee Theatre in ERHS, with seven performances planned.

Christine is a troubled girl in her late teens performing at Paris Opera House as a dancer and chorus singer. The Phantom is a disfigured musical genius, living in the deep underground, terrorizing the opera company, for the unwitting benefit of the young protegee he trains and loves.

Bowersox chose Rokke to raise her soaring soprano for such songs as “Think of Me” and “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” and the title song “Phantom of the Opera”in a duet with Josh Smith as The Phantom.

“Kristen has one of the most gorgeous voices you’ll hear anywhere,” said Bowersox, who has worked with Rokke since her childhood in both Youth Theatre Workshop and ERCT, and in Command Performance Choir. “She is a very serious and introspective girl. She really analyzes her roles, and gives them so much time and effort. This is what she wants to do (as a profession).”

Rokke has long admired “Phantom,” and owns the 2004 movie version in which Emmy Rossum played her role.

Asked what it takes to play Christine, Rokke says, “To figure out who the character is, and what she is feeling, because she is a very confused girl and recently lost her father.”

Rokke’s recent roles with ERCT include a nun in the chorus of  “Sound of Music,”, the caretaker Ayah in “Secret Garden,” a chorus part with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and a duet (“16 Going on 17”) in the variety show fundraiser last summer. She played a fairy in a recent YTW play, “Sleeping Beauty.”

The songs in “Phantom”  are “all fun,  all very challenging, really high,” commented Rokke, who plans to major in vocal performance in college.

That’s the same major Smith has at Bethel College. A native of New York State, Smith impressed the directors with his tenor voice and they had no qualms about giving the male lead to someone outside the area. “He’s a very good singer,” said Rokke, who’ll do two duets with him.

The Star News will have a full story on the “Phantom” and its cast, with dress rehearsal photos, in next week’s edition.


at Zabee Theatre

Friday, July 22, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 23,  7:30 p.m.

Sunday, July 24, 6 p.m.

Thursday, July 28, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, July 29, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 30, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, July 31, 2 p.m.

Tickets — Call 612-327-6087


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