Sarah Marsh is a proud Nana. This Kannapolis local and A.L. Brown graduate says she has some very talented grandchildren, including a 10-year-old who is touring the nation performing in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Love Never Dies.”
Marsh says her family didn’t get their musical talents from her. Her daughter, Melissa Harmston, went to Northwest Cabarrus, took dance lessons at Let’s Dance Studio in Kannapolis and grew up to become a reporter and anchor at WXII in the early 2000’s. Another daughter, Melanie Marsh Rodgers, pursued music in college and loved opera.
Marsh is definitely proud of her whole family, but when she sees her grandson Christian Harmston— son of Melissa Harmston— on stage in the musical, she can’t keep her tears inside.
“I’m a Kannapolis girl. I grew up in a small mill town. My parents both worked in the mill,” Sarah Marsh said. “I’m just so proud of him. I’m beaming about it. I try not to brag on him too much.”
Growing up a performer
Melissa Harmston said her son always loved to sing. Before he turned 2 she said he was singing “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent” around the house.
“He has always had a knack for singing. He has good pitch. It just came very natural to him,” she said. “He really has a gift with his voice.”
The Harmston family lives in Greensboro where Christian began performing in community theater. When he was 5, his aunt Melanie Marsh Rodgers suggested he try out for “The Wizard of Oz” at Community Theatre of Greensboro. After those performances and more in “Pinocchio” Christian couldn’t stay away from the stage.
“I love to sing and dance and act,” Christian said. “It’s just fun to do that all together and have people watch you.”
Christian also played the role of Yoli in “The Exterminating Angel” at the Metropolitan Opera.
Love Never Dies
“Love Never Dies” is set 10 years after the end of “The Phantom of the Opera.” It is a romantic musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Webber, Ben Elton, Frederick Forsyth and Slayer. It is a sequel to “The Phantom of the Opera” and was loosely adapted from Forsyth’s novel “The Phantom of Manhattan.”
In the musical, Christian is one of two young actors who play the role of Gustave— the son of opera singer Christine and her husband, Raoul.
In the show Christine is invited by an anonymous impresario to perform at Phantasma, a new attraction on Coney Island. So with her husband and son in tow, she journeys to Brooklyn, unaware it is actually The Phantom who arranged her appearance.
When Christian was auditioning for the role, he said he was sure he wasn’t going to be selected.
“So I went up for the final callbacks and I was in there for literally a minute and a half, it was super short. I said oh well that’s not going to happen,” Christian said. “They called me two weeks later and said we need a song by tomorrow, so I had to memorize it and sing it and send a video to them.”
He said a few weeks later, he got the call that he would be playing the role of Gustave on a national tour. Six days a week he also plays a smaller part, The Devil, in the first act. That means he is in eight shows in a week.
The tour has taken Christian across the country, including a stop at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte on the weekend that Hurricane Florence came through. Nana Sarah Marsh was there for that performance along with friends and family from the Kannapolis and Concord area.
Christian said one of his favorite stops along the way has been Forth Worth, Texas.
“Fort Worth all the way,” he said when asked about his favorite stop. “Fort Worth was just a great city. The venue was beautiful. Nothing wrong really happened. We stayed at a nice hotel. I feel like it’s really an honor and cool to get to do all this and travel all over the country and to learn a new show, and meet new people.”
Melissa Harmston said that while sometimes she still can’t believe this is happening to her son, the most rewarding part is watching him grow as the Gustave character. She said now that he has plenty of shows under his belt, he is really in his element.
“The show is very intense. The whole story line is about the little boy and his relationships between mother, father and the phantom. It’s a very serious love story with lots of drama,” she said. “You are always proud when your children do something amazing. I really enjoy watching him grow into this role and become such a better actor.”
Not your typical music theater kid
When Christian isn’t touring the nation, he also dances and swims competitively, while still playing the piano and violin. When he grows up, Christian said he wants to become a pediatric oncologist.
Melissa Harmston said he is gaining some popularity on social media during the tour— which ends in December— but he is extremely humble.
The proud Nana says it best.
“He’s just a sweet, kind, considerate, thoughtful little boy. That sums it up,” Sarah Marsh said. “He’s just a gift from God to our whole family.”