It looked like Nick Jones and Mary Evan Giles had the time of their lives Thursday night during the Greenwood-Lander Performing Arts presentation of Franc D'Ambrosio's Broadway in the Josephine B. Abney Cultural Center Auditorium at Lander University.
The two college students were selected from more than 20 hopefuls to share the stage with the man who has the distinction of being the "World's Longest Running Phantom" in "Phantom of the Opera."
During the second half of D'Ambrosio's show, Jones and Giles were brought on stage by D'Ambrosio. After the introductions, D'Ambrisio departed, leaving Jones and Giles on stage with musical director and pianist Michael Tilley.
Jones attends Piedmont Technical College, while Giles is a student at Lander. Thursday night, Jones was Raoul and Giles was Christine from "Phantom."
They nailed "All I Ask of You," perhaps one of the best known and most popular songs from "Phantom of the Opera."
Jones and Giles are not unfamiliar with being on stage. Jones was the Phantom for the Federal Building's 100th anniversary celebration. Giles is a veteran actress on stage at Greenwood Community Theatre and Abbeville Opera House.
The day before the G-LPA performance, D'Ambrosio and Tilley conducted a masters class at Lander.
G-LPA executive director Cecily Ferguson had nothing but the highest compliments for D'Ambrosio.
During the master class, Ferguson said, those who auditioned were mentored by D'Ambrosio. After auditioning, D'Ambrosio addressed how the performance could be better. Another attempt was made with the alterations D'Ambrosio suggested.
Ferguson said even the smallest suggestion made quite a difference the second time around.
She said those auditioning could get past the difference.
Despite it being a cold and rainy Thursday night, there was a nice crowd whose enthusiasm wasn't dampened by the conditions outside.
The age range of the audience was wide - very wide. There were white-haired elderly women sitting a few rows away from a teenager with tinted red-pink hair. Middle-aged men in jackets and ties were a few seats away from students in warmup suits.
I have not doubt many of the students in the audience were there to receive credit for graduation. I also think some were there because of their love for the music D'Ambrosio brought to Lander. There were some in the audience who were singing along with D'Ambrosio.
That was nice to hear. The songs were not today's chart topping hits. They were selections from some of the best Broadway has to offer. All of the songs were written long before many of the students were even thoughts in their parents' heads.
The tunes dated back to the 1940s, '50s and '60s. The most recent tunes were from "Les Miserables" and "Phantom of the Opera," both dating back to just the 1980s.
D'Ambrosio used his Italian heritage to springboard into multiple songs during the evening, which lent a charming element to the show, including singing English and Italian versions of the theme song "Speak Softly Love" from "The Godfather." D'Ambrosio was Anthony Corleone, the opera singing son of Al Pacino in "The Godfather III." The Bronx-raised D'Ambrosio was the consummate professional.
While D'Ambrosio and Tilley were stellar, Jones and Giles held their own during their brief appearance.
Who knows. Thursday night, we might have witnessed the next step in the careers of the leads in future "Phantom of the Opera" productions.