Monday, April 14, 2014

Phantom News - April 2014 Edition

Greetings, all!

As I mentioned in my last post, there's been quite a bit of exciting news related to POTO in recent months. One big one is that there's a Kickstarter page by a small studio working on an animated POTO film based mainly on Gaston Leroux's novel. I'm really interested in seeing how this turns out. They're trying to raise funds and make some changes and adjustments to make it even more faithful – they've even taken some advice from Phans to make their depictions of certain characters and settings more accurate. If you'd like to see what this project's all about, check out the website and view the trailer! I highly encourage you to try to contribute if you're able, as well.

There's also been some very exciting news from the Broadway production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Last month, it was announced that Norm Lewis, who recently starred in Porgy and Bess and played Inspector Javert in the 25th anniversary concert of Les Misérables, will be taking over as the principal Phantom on Broadway starting on May 12th. Norm will be the first African-American actor to play the Phantom on Broadway. There had been two other black Phantoms previously -- Robert Guillaume played the role in Los Angeles in 1990 (immediately following Michael Crawford), and Nicholas Nkuna understudied the part in the World Tour when it played in South Africa in 2012. In any case, though, Norm will be making history in New York, and I couldn't be happier; I know he's been wanting to play the Phantom for quite a while now, and I think he's a fantastic performer. Also on May 12th, Sierra Boggess will be returning as principal Christine; she famously played Christine in the filmed 25th anniversary concert in London, and also played the role in Las Vegas in 2006 and on Broadway for the 25th anniversary performance there last year. Amusingly, Norm and Sierra had starred in The Little Mermaid (as King Triton and Ariel, respectively). Check out a video interview with Norm done on ABC's World News, as well as a clip where he practices "Music of the Night" with the composer at the piano, and an article with the Daily Beast where he talks about issues of race in musical theatre. I'll be posting my own thoughts on those kinds of issues in the near future.

Finally, the new US Tour is going around the country now and has gotten a wide range of reactions. As I mentioned this tour is quite different from the older tours that some of you may have seen; the sets and costumes were changed, as was the stage direction. After reading reviews from several professional critics and Phans, I'm personally not as keen on the tour as I had been previously, but I'd still be interested in seeing at least a full video to see how the production works as a whole.

In any case, those are some of the big things going on in the world of Phantom right now. Hopefully, good news will keep coming!

I remain your obedient servant,

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Decade of Phandom

Greetings, everyone!

Well, it's been quite a while since my last post here -- almost a year, in fact. The reasons for that are mainly due to being rather busy with school and life in general, but there was also a period last summer/fall where I just wasn't feeling it anymore; I couldn't get enthusiastic about POTO the way I had before. I'm not sure exactly what caused it or what brought me back into the Phandom around late November (though I have some ideas on both that I'll get into in a future blog post), but the main thing is that I'm back now!

It occurred to me that this past March marks ten years since I first got into POTO. (The thrilling tale of when and how can be found in my introductory post from way back in the day.) A lot has changed in the world of the Phantom in the last decade, but some things have remained more or less the same. And POTO has led to quite a few changes in my life and how I see myself, as well.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Recent Events

Once again, it's been a while since my last update. A few things have happened in the Phantom community, and not all the news has been happy.

First and saddest was the passing of Kevin Gray, who reportedly died of a heart attack at age 54 on February 11th. He had starred as the Phantom in the original San Francisco production of Ken Hill's Phantom of the Opera (the first to be staged in the US), and went on to play Raoul and then the Phantom in the Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's version (where he met his wife, Dodie Pettit, who was in the chorus and went on to play Meg and then Christine). He also played the Phantom in the US Tour of the ALW show. From 2006 to 2010, he was involved with the "Three Phantoms" concerts, in which he toured the US with fellow POTO stars Craig Schulman, Cris Groenendaal, and other alumni to perform favorite songs from a variety of musicals including Phantom. He and his wife attended the 25th anniversary Broadway performance of POTO this January.

In addition to his work with POTO, Kevin was also known for originating the role of Valentin in Kiss of the Spider Woman, playing the King of Siam in the Broadway and UK touring productions of The King and I, and playing the Engineer in Miss Saigon to great acclaim in the Broadway, US Tour, Toronto, and Sacramento Music Circus productions, as well as many regional productions around the US. (You can hear him as the Engineer in the 1995 Complete Symphonic Recording of Miss Saigon.) He also played Kayama in the 1985 revival of Stephen Sondheim's Pacific Overtures, Pontius Pilate in the revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, Gaylord Ravenal in Harold Prince's production of Show Boat, Scar in the US Cheetah Tour of The Lion King, Ché in Evita, the title roles in Jekyll & Hyde, and many other roles in both musicals and straight plays. He was also on several television shows including Law & Order: SVU and Criminal Intent, Ryan's Hope, and Miami Vice, and also costarred in the film White Hot. He taught acting and theatre classes at Rollins College and the University of Hartford's Hartt School. In addition, he recorded audiobooks for numerous authors including Stephen King and Michael Crichton, and released a solo album entitled "It's My Time To Shine" in 2008. (Both those albums I've linked to on are also available through the iTunes Store, and they can be found in regular music shops that carry musical cast albums as well.)

I got to see Kevin perform when the "Three Phantoms" concert came to Hawaii in 2006, where he gave stunning performances of "Guido's Song" from Nine and "The American Dream" from Miss Saigon, among others. When the Cheetah Tour of The Lion King came to Hawaii the following year, I saw him as Scar and then had the opportunity to meet him at the stage door. He was really nice, down-to-earth, and funny, and he was even willing to let me conduct an online interview with him for The Phantom's Opera (where I'm a moderator). I got to meet him again the following year, when "The Three Phantoms" returned to Hawaii -- Kevin did an outstanding rendition of "Gethsemane" from Jesus Christ Superstar, and I wish he could have been recorded singing that song because he was simply astounding. I'll always remember his boundless energy and enthusiasm in everything he did, and how willing he was to chat with fans after shows -- the second time I met him after The Lion King, I could tell he was in a bit of a hurry to get home, but he still took the time to say hello to me and give me his contact info so I could set up that interview later on. I was touched to see the outpouring of support from Kevin's colleagues, students, fans, and friends after the news of his passing; it was clear that he made a difference in the lives of many, many people. BroadwayWorld did a really nice tribute to Kevin, featuring quotes from some of his fellow performers that I think underscore that fact. And after the news came out that he had passed away, the following night's performance of POTO on Broadway featured a cast tribute to Kevin after the show. I would have loved to see him play the Phantom once again, but it's clear to me that he'll be remembered by many Phans around the world as one of the very best.

In other, happier news, the new UK tour of POTO will soon be making its way across the pond to play in many American cities. There's no news on casting yet, and many are dreading the changes from the original Hal Prince/Maria Björnson productions (particularly with regard to costumes and stage direction). Still, I'm interested in seeing this new production; there will no doubt be some things I like and some things I'm not too keen on, but I'm eager to give it a try for myself, and so if I get an opportunity to see it, I'll definitely post a review here.

In the meantime, Phantom by Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit is also getting some love. For what I believe is the first time ever, the show will be performed in the UK. And a Japanese (nonmusical) stage production of Susan Kay's Phantom has been released on DVD. The price is a little out of my range (nearly $150), but I'm eager to see any clips or reviews of it posted by other Phans.

That's about it for now, but I will update again soon in the near future -- hopefully it won't take quite as long. I leave you with a photo of me and Kevin Gray at the stage door of The Lion King back in 2007.

I remain your obedient servant,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Phantom From the East

Greetings once again, Phans!

Alas, a new year is upon us, and with it comes another anniversary or several -- this time, my 4th anniversary of seeing the ALW musical live for the first time (on January 3rd) and the 25th anniversary of the Broadway production (which will be celebrated with a special performance starring Hugh Panaro as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine). In my case, it's also been a time for me to play catch-up with some POTO versions that I hadn't seen before.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Another Hallow's Eve Has Come

Greetings once again, Phans!

It's that time of year once again, and I just couldn't let it pass by without a post here. I wore my ALW!Phantom outfit once again, and it was a big hit during class. I do wish Halloween lasted longer than just one day a year, but alas, we must make do.

A bit of POTO news, since that's what this blog is for, after all... The new UK Tour now has a new Phantom; John Owen-Jones left the production around the end of September and was replaced by Earl Carpenter. The Broadway production is also having a somewhat major cast change; Trista Moldovan will soon be leaving the production and Marni Raab will be promoted to principal Christine while a completely new performer, Samantha Hill, will be the alternate. Later on, Marni will also leave the cast and Sierra Boggess will take over in time for the Broadway production's 25th anniversary celebration next January.

In other news, the Broadway production's official Facebook page has said that the show is back on tonight after a 2-day hiatus due to Hurricane Sandy. I'm glad to know the actors, crew, and theater all got through the storm safely, and hopefully, the rest of the areas affected by the hurricane will soon be back in action as well.

Oh, and I've a bit of personal news, as well. I've started up another Blogspot where I can post about stuff besides Phantom -- check it out here. Don't worry, though; I'll still be updating this blog as often as I can, as well.

In any case, Happy Halloween to all!

I remain your obedient servant,