THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
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Broadway's The Phantom of the Opera to Welcome Michael Shawn Lewis and Roland Rusinek

Two principal cast changes have been announced for the Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running show in Broadway history. The musical is in its 19th year in New York, playing at The Majestic Theatre (247 West 44th Street).

Phantom favorite Michael Shawn Lewis will return to the role of the romantic lead Raoul beginning Monday evening, April 3. Lewis has performed the role with five different companies: on Broadway (where he made his Broadway debut in 2001, becoming the tenth actor to be cast in the role), with the U.S. national tour, in Belgium and with two productions in Germany. He most recently appeared on Broadway as an original cast member of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White (in the ensemble and covering the lead role of Walter Hartwright). Internationally, he has appeared as Marius in Les Misérables and as Franz Joseph in Elisabeth. Tim Martin Gleason, who is leaving the Broadway production to originate the role of Raoul in the upcoming Vegas production, will play his final New York performance on Saturday evening, April 1.

Roland Rusinek will take over the role of Piangi, the vainglorious opera tenor, this Friday evening, March 31. Rusinek will make his Broadway debut, but is no stranger to Phantom, having played the role of Piangi for a year in the Toronto production in the mid-90s. His other credits include the national tour of Kiss Me, Kate; Kismet at Encores!; Fezziwig in A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden; Beauty and the Beast in Montreal; and three productions at New York City Opera: Sweeney Todd (Beadle), The Most Happy Fella (Giuseppe) and Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (Royal Chef). He replaces Larry Wayne Morbitt, who has the distinction of having played the role of Piangi on Broadway more than any other actor, at over 2,300 performances. Morbitt already played his final performance Wednesday evening, March 29 and will originate the role of Piangi in the Vegas production.

Continuing in their roles are Howard McGillin (The Phantom), Sandra Joseph (Christine), George Lee Andrews (Monsieur Firmin), David Cryer (Monsieur André), Anne Runolfsson (Carlotta), Marilyn Caskey (Madame Giry), Heather McFadden (Meg Giry) and Rebecca Pitcher (Christine at certain performances).

The Phantom of the Opera became the longest-running show in Broadway history on January 9, 2006, when it played performance #7486, surpassing the record run of Cats (also created by Phantom composer Lloyd Webber, producer Cameron Mackintosh and choreographer Gillian Lynne). It has since become the first production in Broadway history to surpass 7,500 performances (which it did on January 21) and reach 18 years (which it did on January 26). The show is directed by Harold Prince.

Based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L'Opéra by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera "tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it. He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command," according to press notes.

The Phantom of the Opera had its world premiere on October 9, 1986 at Her Majesty's Theatre in London, winning every major British theatre award including the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards. The New York production, starring London stars Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, opened on January 26, 1988. The musical won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

The Las Vegas production--with Brent Barrett and Anthony Crivello to alternate in the title role--will open at The Venetian
Resort • Hotel • Casino in a 95-minute version in June.

The performance schedule for The Phantom of the Opera is Monday and Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m. For tickets, call Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200, visit www.telecharge.com or visit The Majestic Theatre box office (247 West 44th Street). Visit www.thephantomoftheopera.com for more information.


Photo of Michael Shawn Lewis by Joan Marcus

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