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PHOTO SUBMITTED BY LESLIE ROCKWELL
UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: Brianne Morgan, left, with Aubree Rockwell, 11, of Spring Valley Lake. Rockwell met Morgan, a Sultana High School graduate, backstage after seeing Morgan perform in ‘Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular' at the Venetian Theatre in Las Vegas. The show closes Sunday.

Sultana High graduate appears in Las Vegas production of 'Phantom'

Special to the Hesperia Star

In "Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular," the last moment on stage belongs to a graduate of Sultana High School in Hesperia.

“I get the final moment of the whole show when the phantom disappears and all that’s left is his mask,” said Brianne Morgan, who graduated in Sultana High’s class of 2001. “I go and pick it up and there are two spotlights: one on me, one on the mask.”

Morgan has been playing the role of Meg, the best friend of the show’s heroine, since the production opened at the Venetian Theatre in Las Vegas in 2006. She’s performed eight shows a week for nearly six years (10 shows a week the first year). She appears in eight scenes with seven costume changes, performing in dance numbers, choral numbers and vocal solos.

“I get to sing, I get to dance, I get to do a couple of the acting scenes,” Morgan said. “I get to be a true triple threat.”

Leslie Rockwell, career and college specialist at Hesperia High School, recently saw Morgan’s performance when she took her granddaughter, Aubree, to the show.

“She had a beautiful, crystal-clear voice,” Rockwell said.

Afterward, they met Morgan backstage. “I said, ‘I feel like I know you from something else,’” Rockwell said.

It turned out that Rockwell was on the board of five judges who awarded Morgan a Kiwanis scholarship her senior year.

“When we read the applications, it’s hard to narrow it down to five (candidates),” Rockwell said. “But when we interview the five, there’s always one kid that hits us all, that we know is going to be successful.”

“She had an incredible voice; she had an incredible knowledge of musicals and music,” said Darin Grebel, Morgan’s former theater teacher at Sultana High School. “She was very professional.”

Grebel felt that much of the credit for helping Morgan develop her vocal skills went to the late Carl Dominik, her choir teacher at Sultana.

“Brianne never needed high school approval,” Grebel said. “She wanted to know what I thought, she wanted to know what Mr. Dominik thought. But she didn’t need other high school kids to tell her she was cool.”

While confidence is important, Morgan said, there is always room to grow.

“I never stop learning,” she said. “I had to take voice lessons when I got here to improve what I already had.”

Morgan started learning to perform at the age of 5, when her parents took her to ballet classes to see if dancing would capture her interest. She promptly fell in love with the dancing, the tutus and dressing up like a princess.

When she went to an audition for “The Nutcracker” in Los Angeles when she was about 11, Morgan’s parents were told she had strong potential — but she needed to study harder.

“She really needed to focus on the technical part of it,” Brianne’s father, Jim Morgan, said. “It wasn’t to be treated like a plaything.”

They accepted the challenge and took her to Inland Pacific Ballet in Claremont, which required attending practices several times a week. It was an hour-long drive each way.

“They definitely did all of this for me,” Brianne Morgan said. “They sacrificed a lot for me. My mom (Arlene Morgan) took a job down the hill for five years to help support my lessons.”

Morgan recalls doing homework in the backseat on the way to Claremont because that was the only time she had to do it.

“We got home after 10:30, and I still had to finish homework sometimes,” she said.

There were times, Morgan admits, when she argued about whether some school assignments were even necessary. But her parents wouldn’t allow her to put school work aside in favor of ballet.

“My mom and dad always instilled in me the work ethic — that hard work will always pay off,” she said.

“Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular” ends its run at the Venetian Theatre Sept. 2. After that, Morgan plans to move to New York to pursue her career.

“She wanted me to come back to school and stress (to my students), it really doesn’t matter where you’re born or where you go to high school,” Rockwell said. “Just keep practicing and put school first.”


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