Before there was Hamilton, the latest musical to take Broadway audiences by storm, there was The Phantom of the Opera. It’s one of many shows featuring music by British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose other claims to fame include Cats and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Those needing proof that The Phantom of the Opera hasn’t lost its appeal need look no further than a touring production called The Four Phantoms, which features four actors who’ve played the Phantom part, and one actress who’s played Christine, the object of the Phantom’s unrequited love.
It’s coming to Talking Stick Resort on Friday and Saturday, August 12 and 13. For some, it may be a first introduction to Webber’s works. But for many, it will be a musical trip down memory lane.
It’s been three decades since The Phantom of the Opera opened in London, before coming to Broadway. In 1988, it earned the Tony Award for best musical. But the French novel that inspired Webber’s work was written in 1911, so the story itself has been around for more than a century.
For those who need a quick primer, here’s Phantom 101: The Phantom lives beneath the Paris Opera House, where he writes music for young ingénue Christine and pines away for her even as he wreaks havoc on nearly everyone else – including her love interest, Raoul.
Franc D’Ambrosio, one of four previous Phantoms featured in the tour, has performed the role more than 2,300 times. He credits the musical’s appeal to the intriguing relationship between the Phantom and Christine.
Long before meeting the Phantom, who wears a mask covering scars on one side of his face, Christine falls in love with his music. But D’Ambrosio sees something more. “I truly believe Christine really fell in love with the Phantom,” he says. "It’s a blind love, and a love that transcends individuals.”
But in the end (spoiler alert!), they don’t wind up together. And that’s precisely why people find it so relatable, D’Ambrosio says. “We’ve all loved and lost in our lives,” he says. “That’s why the musical impacts so many people.”
Still, something else strikes a chord with audiences.
“We’ve all wondered whether someone would truly love us if they knew who we really were,” D’Ambrosio says. The Phantom’s mask is both literal and figurative. And it’s symbolic of a timeless question asked between lovers: “Can you love me for everything I wish I could be for you?”
Kaley Ann Voorhees, a 22-year-old guest artist in The Four Phantoms, is the youngest person ever to perform the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. She has an entirely different take.
“People like to watch Christine go through this journey,” Voorhees says. “She starts off as someone who is confused and hurting, who finds comfort in the Phantom. But by the end they watch her grow into someone who knows what she wants and sticks up for herself.”
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The Four Phantoms cast also includes Marcus Lovett, who performed the role in London’s West End and on Broadway – in addition to Brent Barrett, a Phantom in Las Vegas, and David Gaines, a Phantom on Broadway as well as San Francisco and Los Angeles.
During their 90-minute performance, they’ll perform selections from not only The Phantom of the Opera, but several additional musicals as well – including Les Misérables, Cats, Miss Saigon, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and West Side Story. It’s all peppered with stories of the performers' own Broadway experiences – including times they've beaten each other out of coveted roles.
It’s too soon to know whether we’ll ever see The Four Hamiltons on tour. But there’s no doubt that The Phantom of the Opera has staying power. “Everyone loves a good love story,” Voorhees says. “Even if it’s a strange one."