Theater Info for the Washington DC region

St. John Neumann Theatre Ministry Phantom of the Country Opera

By • Jul 26th, 2008 • Category: Reviews

Listen to our review of St. John Neumann Theatre Ministry’s production of Phantom of the Country Opera [MP3 5:56 2.7MB].

Phantom of the Country Opera
St. John Neumann Theatre Ministry
St. John Neumann Parish Center, Reston, VA
$12/$10 Students Under 12
Through August 3rd

Laura: This is the ShowBizRadio review of Phantom of the Country Opera, performed by St. John Neumann Theatre Ministry in Reston, Virginia. We saw the performance on opening night, Friday, July 25, 2008.

Mike: Phantom of the Country Opera is a musical with book by Kathy Santen and Sean Grennan, lyrics by Cheryl Coons and music by Michael Duff. The plot may sound oddly familiar: operatic sensation Christina Joseph leaves a promising career at LaScala and returns to her roots in Nashville, Tennessee singing backup at the Country Palace. There she finds an enemy in an aging country western diva, a mentor and mysterious janitor determined to make her country music’s newest star.

Laura: I thought this show was well acted overall, although there was a wide range of acting talent on stage. The singing was good. I liked the line dancing scenes, although it did make the stage a little crowded. Unfortunately the writing left something to be desired. There were incongruities throughout the performance. The writers kind of led you one direction and then something else would happen so it became very splotchy.

Mike: I had built up in my mind that this would be a fun show and there were funny bits in the show, but I did not get into it. I think the St. John Neumann Theatre Ministry did a good job with what they to work with, but the actual material of the book and the music just was not there. It was kind of a disappointing show. The people in the audience that knew people in the cast had a good time. I overheard people commenting at intermission how much they were enjoying themselves.

Laura: The writing for this show was very difficult to follow. Some of the characters on stage did not take their role seriously and did a lot of over the top acting. This worked well if they were treating it like a comic spoof. For instance the role of Skipper Kinkaid, played by Joey Long, did a good job. He had some really funny lines and some emotional scenes that he played off of the audience really well and it worked. Then you had some of the other characters who were trying to take it seriously and treat it like a real musical, such as Stephanie Draeger, playing Christina/Chrissy Jo Jenkins, who was trying to make it into a real musical and it just did not quite work.

Mike: This show really called for everyone to treat it as a spoof, I think. Because a lot of the cast tried to take it seriously, and you want to take your show seriously, but in a spoof you also need to have fun. While they were doing a good production, it needed more joy and humor. A lot of the laughter when it happened was brief. It felt like the show was too long and kind of dragged out. At the hour and twenty minute break we were ready to leave until we realized it was just the intermission. The second hour, though not painful, felt forced. It just did not work for me.

The diva, Sally Barker was played by Lisa Freese. Her husband and manager, Billy Kinkaid was played by Joe Richardson. Freese’s Sally Barker was over the top. This worked because she was a diva. I guess that is the definition of a diva to be over the top, being the center of everything. There was a pretty funny scene near the end of the first act when she got her revenge on Chrissy. Everybody that was singing at the end of the big extravaganza had to change their voices which they all did pretty well. Watching Freese cackle and giggle and enjoy what she had done to everybody worked well. Her manager/husband did the same thing. He was kind of over the top when he was flirting with Chrissy and the other girls that made up the background singers. It worked. Then later when he was frustrated with his wife and did little asides it worked well because it was over the top.

Laura: Aaron/Phantom was played by Jim Bumgardner. He was a bit stiff in the first act, but got better in the second act. Again he acted with what he had to work with. There was a scene where he put on a Phantom of the Opera mask to hypnotize the diva Sally Baker. That scene did not work because it did not make any sense what he was talking about. Then when he would snap his fingers she would come out of it. I did not understand that scene at all.

Mike: There were some minor technical problems. The microphones were not always turned off when actors went backstage. Sometimes the orchestra was a little too loud at times, they drowned out the performers on stage. The set was very nice and very flexible. It was designed by Bill Behan and Helen O’Neill. The costumes were very appropriate. I liked the attention to detail. The costumes were designed by Debbie Dahms, Kay Walters, Lisa Freese, and Lou Ann. K. Behan.

Laura: Phantom of the Country Opera ran two and a half hours with one intermission. It is playing through Sunday August 3. Friday and Saturdays at 8 and Sunday matinees on the 27th and August 3rd at 2 pm at the St. John Neumann Parish Center in Reston, Virginia.

Mike: If you have seen this show, we would love to hear your thoughts, simply leave a comment here at

Laura: And now, on with the show.


  • Christine/Chrissy Jo Jenkins: Stephanie Draeger
  • Cabriella/Sally Barker: Lisa Freese
  • Carlo Pupi/Major Billy Kinkaid: Joe Richardson
  • Antonio: Nick Horner
  • Sergio/Carl/Reporter#2/Ensemble: Marshall Severin
  • Street Singer: Ross Anderson
  • Aaron/Phantom/Ensemble: Jim Bumgardner
  • Skipper Kinkaid: Joey Long
  • Officer Crenshaw: Hannah Rohlfs
  • Mort de Soleil/Ensemble: Chris Borton
  • Crystal Light/Ensemble: Lizzy Baxter
  • Clive: Doug Johnson
  • Tammy/Ensemble: Danielle Lavendar
  • Patsy/Ensemble/Chrissy Understudy: Reeny Eul
  • June/Ensemble: Elise Ebbinghaus
  • Ellie Sue/Ensemble: Caroline Menna
  • Loretta-May/Ensemble: Elena Nickel
  • Andrew, Lloyd, Weber and Son: Phil Merkel, Roger Lemieux, Pete Britnall, Marshal Severin
  • Carl: Marshall Severin
  • Marge/Fan/Ensemble: Gaye Freese
  • Reporter#1/Ensemble and Skipper Understudy: Griffin Herrington
  • Pickpocket/Fan/Ensemble: Alec Brown
  • Fans/Ensemble: Daria Hoobchaak
  • Fans/Ensemble: Joe Kimpfler


  • Conductor: Brian Victor
  • Bass Guitar: Paul Hanover
  • Drums: Jeff Bumgardner
  • Guitar: John Hulley
  • Acoustic Guitar: Ross Anderson
  • Trumpet: Stuart Stephenson


  • Producer: Lou Ann K. Behan
  • Director: Sue Pinkman
  • Music Directors: JoEllen Borton and Brian Victor
  • Stage Managers: Eileen Mullee and Laura K. Baughman
  • Choreographer: Ivan Davila
  • Costume Design and Acquistion: Debbie Dahms, Kay Walters, Lisa Freese, Lou Ann K. Behan
  • Sound Design: Jim Girardi
  • Lighting Crew: unknown at time of printing
  • Sound Crew: Jim Girardi and Friends
  • Stage Crew: Helen O’Neill, Sarah Stueve, Bill, Caitlin, Jeremy and Brandon Tuohy
  • Set Design: Bill Brehan and Helen O’Neill
  • Set Construction: Bill Brehan, Marty Sullivan, Pat Schambach, Elise Forrester, Andrew Forrester, Joe Schambach, Bill Tuohy, Jeremy Tuohy, Caitlin Tuohy, Helen O’Neill, David Herring, Rich Stana, Marianne Stana, Kay Walters, Joan Letchworth and Jane Chancler
  • Set Painting: Helen O’Neill, Bill Brehan, Lou Ann K. Behan, Loretta and Rob Scott, Barbara Wood
  • Special Set Pieces and Signs: Debbie Dahms
  • Outdoor Signs: Sarah Stueve and Lou Ann K. Behan
  • Audition and Rehearsal Accompanist: Veronica Poirier

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

One Response »

  1. Love the site and always enjoy reading the reviews! I agree with most of your comments…but I’ve got to disagree with your critique of Christina/Chrissy Jo…I saw the show Saturday night and thought she was incredible – far above the quality you usually see in community theatre! Her earnest quality brought a nice balance to the rest of the over the top performances…and on the whole, she didn’t have much to work with script-wise, from what I could tell! Hope to see her in more productions.