Curiocity: Q&A With ‘The Phantom’ Of The Opera

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Sara Boyd Sara Pelissero
Sara Pelissero joined the WCCO web team in August of 2009. You can...
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The Phantom of the Opera … is here. And it’s not just inside your mind.

The classic story has returned to Minnesota but this time, with a slightly new look.

Last week, we took you behind the scenes of the new production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” which opened last Friday in Minneapolis.

The staging, the scenic design and the overall look is a new twist on the original but as we’ve been reassured, the music, the powerful story and the memorable characters are the same that we’ve all grown to love.

Mark Campbell, who plays our mysterious Phantom, was kind enough to chat with us last week before the production began. He gave us the scoop on everything from the show’s incredible 25th anniversary to his plans for the holidays. Read our full Q&A below.

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So, how do you feel about the lovely weather we’re having in Minnesota?
I’m originally from Nebraska so I’m used to pretty similar weather, lots of snow. I’m not sure it gets quite, quite this cold but pretty close.

When did you guys get into town and how long have you been preparing for this run?
We had seven weeks of rehearsal in New York and we teched the show in Providence and Minneapolis is actually only our second city on the new tour. We’ve all been drifting in at different times. I’ve been here since Sunday (Dec. 8) and just been sort of enjoying a few days wandering around downtown.

And this is your first time with Phantom?
Yeah, this is a totally new version of the show so it’s a completely new cast. Actually, I think only four people on tour have done some version of Phantom before.

What was your first introduction to the Phantom of the Opera?
When I was 14, growing up in Nebraska, I was into theater but I didn’t know Phantom. Then I heard the recording of Phantom and it was pretty much love at first hear. I pretty much did nothing but listen to the original recording of Phantom of the Opera for many, many months. Eventually I did see the show many, many times and it’s always been one of my dream roles. Never knew if it would actually happen but luckily, it turned out to be a dream come true and here I am.

The music of the show has become iconic. What’s your favorite song to perform?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. You know, it’s interesting. I think if you would’ve asked me before rehearsals I would’ve said “Music of the Night” without any question – that and “All I Ask of You” are probably the two songs that everybody knows. But actually as we’ve gotten to do the show, I’ve loved the song that not a lot of people know called, “Past the Point of No Return,” which is later on in the show. And then my co-star Julia (Udine as ‘Christine Daaé) sings a song called, “Wishing you Were Somehow Here Again,” which I’ve always liked but I think the way she sings it is just so amazing and I’m not even on stage when she sings it. I just get to listen in the wings every night. It’s a pretty amazing song.

How long has this cast been together?
I guess all told, just over three months, three-and-a-half months something like that.

The show is celebrating 25 years on Broadway. What is it like for you to be part of that history?
That’s a huge honor. It’s just a huge honor. Not only as someone who has loved the show but just, you know, to be a part of theater history. Phantom sort of redefined what theater could be when it opened in New York and it’s sort of been riding that ever since. I know that it hasn’t been here for more than five years but it’s come here five times so obviously there’s a fan base here in Minneapolis, which is great.

(credit: Matthew Murphy)

(credit: Matthew Murphy)

Over those 25 years, there’s obviously been a lot of different phantoms – what do you bring to this role?
Because it’s a reimagining, I got to start from a different starting place than any Phantom has in 25 years. I was very lucky in that. Because obviously Michael Crawford had kind of an iconic performance when he originated the role. I think it’s a darker, sort of grittier take on the show. I think it’s a little more character driven than the original one is. A little edgier in how it approaches the subject matter. So I guess the best way to put it is that everything that everyone loves is obviously still there because we didn’t have to turn gold into lead but it’s just a reimagining of some of that. I like to think that I bring a sort of raw acting to the role. I’m not even going to say that it hasn’t been done before because obviously there’s been many, many Phantoms over the years, many brilliant performers that I’m very, very lucky to be in their company at all.

I have to ask just out of curiosity, what keeps your mask on your face?
Well, there is a wire that keeps it where it’s supposed to be and that hasn’t changed over the 25 years. There’s pretty much always been a wire that’s pretty well hidden. But yeah, that’s not a magic trick secret so I don’t think I’ll get in trouble for telling you that.

You mentioned it’s been a little while since Minneapolis has been able to see Phantom, what are you looking forward to in performing to our audiences?
Well, I tell ya, because I came from the Midwest, I’m always excited about exposing a new generation to musical theater and I think Phantom is one of those pieces that transcend all genres. So people who don’t necessarily love musical theater, will love Phantom and people who love musical theater, tend to love Phantom. So it’s just a way to continue to let musical theater be relevant and exciting for people and you know, I was that kid who sat in the audience when I was 14 and saw the show and it changed my life and we always hope we bring the next generation in to get excited about theater. Because it’s an important thing to keep alive and well in America.

You’ll be in Minneapolis over the holidays – do you guys get much of break?
I think most of us are sticking around here. A couple of ambitious souls might jump on a plane and go home and come right back. Given the weather, I think most of us are staying.

Have you been to Minneapolis before? Anything you’re looking forward to checking out during your time here?
I have. I came here with Mama Mia many years ago. And because I’m from Nebraska I’ve definitely driven here on a couple of road trips to go to Mall of America and see the sights. And of course, you guys have truly legendary theaters and things here so I was definitely very aware of Minneapolis the whole time I was growing up. I’m sure I’ll revisit the Mall of America. I want to try to catch a show at The Guthrie, I don’t know if my schedule will allow it but if it does, I definitely want to.

Any final thoughts?
If you’re a long-time fan of Phantom, come see the show, you’re going to like it. If you’ve never seen Phantom, come see the show, you’re going to like it. I guess because I was a long-time fan of Phantom, I understand there are some people that might be nervous about the reimagining of the show and I don’t think they need to be.

The Phantom of the Opera runs through Jan. 5 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Tickets range from $39 to $169. For more information and tickets, click here.

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