BWW Interviews: Columbus Native Can't Wait to Take the Stage as Christine when THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Rolls Into Columbus

Worthington Christian's <a href=Jordan Ensign will be the understudy for Christine." bheight="204" src="" align="left" width="139" />

Bexley graduate Herb Potter will be the understudy for Raoul.

When she first saw THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Jordan Ensign admits the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical didn't just knock her socks off. It stole her clogs as well.

"I was four when the show came to Columbus in 1994," said Ensign, who is the understudy for the role of Christine Daaé when the icon musical arrives in her hometown of Columbus on Jan. 4. "My parents were asked to remove me from the theater if I wouldn't stop talking because I kept asking my dad what I had to do to get up there on the stage. When the gunshot happened (at the end of the second act), I was so scared, the clogs I was wearing fell off my feet and slid down the elevated rows.

"At the end of the show, I remember looking at my dad (Tom) and saying 'I have to be Christine.' We had this thing when I was growing up where we'd listen to all the Michael Crawford and Sarah Brighton albums. I'd sign my birthday cards to him Love, Christine Daaé."

Ensign, a 2008 Worthington Christian High School graduate, will take over the role of Christine for the Jan. 9-12 evening shows and will play Princess as a part of the ensemble for the rest of the Columbus run. Ensign is one of three people in the production with Columbus ties. Herb Porter, who plays a policeman and is the understudy for Raoul, hails from Bexley and Brian Rau, the assistant sound technician, is also from Columbus.

For Ensign, playing in the show is a dream come true. Ensign remembers phoning home after she was cast for the national tour.

"It was the most emotional phone call I've ever made," she said with a laugh. "My dad thought I didn't get it because I was crying so hard. He was trying to console me and I said 'No, no I got the part.'"

Ensign thought she was going to have to give up her dream of playing the role several times during her career.

Ensign appeared to be on a different career path when she enrolled at the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College, which only offered classical music training. "I thought since I was studying voice I could choose whatever (genre) I wanted," she said with a smirk. "That was really naïve of me. I went to my first lesson with my pile of musical theatre (songbooks) and my music teacher said 'Oh no, no, no. You're going to sing German and French. I thought I am not going to like this."

Ensign was correct. She didn't like opera singing; she LOVED it. After graduating from Wheaton, Ensign continued her studies at DePaul University and had the opportunity to sing opera in Tuscany and Florence, Italy. "Although I'm singing musical theater now, if I didn't have that opera background, I couldn't be doing (PHANTOM) now," she said.

The foray into opera was only a slight detour in Ensign's path. Twice in college, she was told she might never sing professionally. At Wheaton, she was diagnosed with a vocal tremolo, a very fast vibrato that over time becomes increasingly difficult to sing with. Her instructor, Carolyn Hart, retrained Ensign, making her perform "more breathy" when she was singing.

"With a fast vibrato, your vocal chords are coming together too much, so (Hart) said 'let's not let them come together,'" Hart said. "At first, I was miserable and so embarrassed but I came back after a year and my vibrato was healed."

Later at DePaul, Ensign struggled with vocal atrophy, a thinning of the vocal muscles resulting in a weaker singing voice. Ensign went through vocal therapy and regained the power her voice.

The side steps and the setbacks have molded her into the performer she is today.

"People have hurdles, no matter what their profession," Ensign said. "I still tear up because no one thought I'd be here. There are so many times where I shouldn't be where I am in my life but the Lord is good.

"During the first time I saw PHANTOM, I wrote my dad a letter that night saying I would be Christine one day," Ensign said. "I even signed it 'Love, Christine.' My dad is flying up to watch my Christine show at the Ohio Theatre, and I'm going to have someone bring him that letter to his seat before the show (I found it at home!) with a side note that says 'Dad, I made it up here.'"

Now if someone could just find those clogs ...

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA will be performed Jan. 4-14 at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street in downtown Columbus) with 6:30 p.m. performances on Jan. 7 and 14; 7:30 performances Jan. 4, 9, 10 and 11; and 8 p.m. performances on Jan. 5, 6, 12 and 13. Additionally, there will be 1 p.m. matinees on Jan. 7 and Jan. 14 and 2 p.m. matinees on Jan. 4, 6, and 13. Call 614-469-0939 for details.

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From This Author Paul Batterson

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