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The First Annual 'PHANTOM' Fans Week Recap

Phantom Fan Week: I'll resist the temptation to write "Phantom Phans" but, in truth, even though I am very used to fans, I've never seen anything quite like this.

The deal was that fans of Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular (the very aptly named version of the show at The Venetian) could come to Las Vegas and get total immersion in their favorite entertainment. There were behind-the-scenes tours, meet-and-greets with key people in the production, a masquerade ball, dinner with the producers and a farewell brunch. It was three days that fans of anything or anyone - show, actor, singer, sports team - would love. I was fortunate to attend five of the events and, herewith, my report.

Meet the Phantom

There were actual gasps when Anthony Crivello walked onstage, reed-thin, dark hair and eyes - every inch the ideal guy to play the role. [And, I must note, there was a great deal of talk about the various actors who have played it. The fans, gathering during breaks, showed off memorabilia, autographs and photos, al the while talking about "Michael," "Colm," "Chris," "Howard," and so on. These people love the show and treat the actors like family. It's really nice!]

The format was question-and-answer. Some of the highlights:

Did you read the book or see the movie? "I haven't read the novel, nor have I seen the movie. Ultimately," he explained, "I don't want to be influenced by someone else's work."

Crivello is, he explained, a Method actor, a member of the Actor's Studio in both New York and LA. As such he created a backstory for Erik (the Phantom's name).

"Erik had a mother issue," he says. "His deformity caused his mother to reject him and he mistrusts women. But, he's attracted to Christine but he's never had a relationship because of the deformity. " 

Do you take your work home? "Well, when I played Che, I didn't go home and plot to overthrow a small country," he said, "but there are elements of every character that are part of me."

How do you prepare your voice for each performance? "About 3 pm I begin to judge my voice. I warm up in the car. If I am not up to it one evening I call in. One day, I'd stopped at a 7-11 on the way in and ran some scales. I knew my voice wasn't right so I called in, apologized and said I couldn't go on. A few minutes later the phone rang. 'This isn't a joke, is it?' I was asked and I said it was not. 'Oh, it's April 1 and we thought it might be an April Fools joke.'"

What is your favorite part of the show? "I like the last 15 minutes because it's the meat of the piece. What proceeds it is the set-up."

What's your favorite role and what role would you like to play? This man who made his stage debut in a school about Pocahontas and John Smith in which he played the former, says, "My favorite role is Che Guevara in Evita. I'd like to play Willy Loman and Alvaro Mangiacavallo in The Rose Tattoo. Burt Lancaster was miscast in the role. It's very operatic, very Italian. I'd like to try it. I'd also like to play Teach in Mamet's American Buffalo.

"Michael Jackson would make a good Phantom. This man is the equivalent of what Michael Jackson is to this generation."

How do you (The Phantom) get out of the chair at the end? "I slide down the chute below the chair.

"Do you believe that? No, I'm not going to tell you. That's one of the things that bothers me. If I started to tell you everything, you're going to lose the magic of the whole thing."

How do you care for your voice in the desert? "I do scales but this is the most grueling climate and worst climate conditions I have ever had to deal with.  Why they didn't build Vegas closer to Mt. Charleston [where it's up to 20º cooler], I'll never know. This is also the windiest city I've ever been in. But your body starts to acclimate. You have to hydrate. I have humidifiers in every bedroom of the house, a central humidifier system and in the dressing room. I also try to avoid loud restaurants so I don't have to strain my voIce Too much in conversation. I don't want to baby myself and, luckily, I've been blessed with a set of iron vocal cords."

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