BWW Interviews: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA's Gerónimo Rauch
Argentina's Gerónimo Rauch is the latest performer to don the famous white mask, playing the title role in the West End production of The Phantom Of The Opera. He spoke to BWW's Amy Hanson about playing the Phantom and about his experience of performing some of musical theatre's biggest roles around the world.
You've just started in the leading role of The Phantom Of The Opera; how is it going so far?
I'm enjoying it! It was an amazing opening night and it's getting better and better every day as I find it more and feel the character more through each of the performances. I'm very happy in the part.
Was it a part that you had been keen to play?
Yes, definitely! It was on my list and I've now played the three roles that I always wanted to play - Jesus, Jean Valjean and the Phantom. Since I moved here, I thought that Phantom could maybe be my next step. I'm a bit limited in the parts I can play, because of my accent, but I dreamed of doing Phantom after Valjean, and the dream came true!
Most recently, you played Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, also in the West End. The Phantom and Jean Valjean are two of the most iconic roles in musical theatre, and you have not only gone from one to the other, but you have done so in your second language. How has it been different to work on such roles in English rather than Spanish?
It is a challenge to be doing it in a second language, but it's easier when it's all sung. Because we are singers, we work with sound and we try not to show our accent. So it's not harder to do it in a different language, it just takes a bit longer to get the role into your body. I think it sounds better in English, it is more beautiful in English and I love it! We have strong consonants in Spanish so it sounds more aggressive. English is more about the vowels and it's beautiful, so I enjoy singing in English more. When I was studying musical theatre, I started singing all of these songs that I am singing now, like Bring Him Home, Music of the Night, even the songs from Miss Saigon, and I started singing all of them in English. I never though this could happen when I was 17 and now I'm 35 and I'm playing these parts!
How did you come to be performing in London?
It was mainly a consequence of doing Valjean in Spain. I had always dreamed of working in the West End. Like Broadway, it's the musical theatre place to be. After playing Valjean in Madrid and in Barcelona, the resident director Chris Key asked me "How's your English? Can I record you singing Valjean in English?" So we made one video that he took to Cameron Mackintosh. He had already seen me perform the role in Spain and was happy with me, so when he heard my English he was happy with that too, and thought, "He can work on his English but he's good! He has good English!"
For the past year, I've been working with a dialect coach and I know the difference and can feel the difference between the languages now. I had studiEd English at school, but only used it in the holidays after that. So I had to bring all of that information back.
The production of Les Miserables in Spain was the 25th anniversary version of the show, so was it different as an actor to then go on to the original production in London?
The story is the same, and the differences are really about direction and about how they approach the characters. It's more modern in every sense in the 25th anniversary production. It's faster, the tempos are all faster, and the projection behind you is something you need to work with. Suddenly I came to the original production and it's much darker, you are alone with the audience. The theatre is smaller and you can feel the audience just a metre from you. In the other production in Spain, we were in bigger venues and the audience was far away, so bigger performances were necessary. But the story is the same and the magic is the same because Les Mis is fantastic. It's beautiful and magic and I love it!
Both Les Miserables and The Phantom Of The Opera are huge and successful shows with legions of fans, so how has the response from West End audiences been to both of your roles?
I never had any complaints at all with the response in Les Mis! We had a standing ovation every night. With Phantom, the fans are very fanatical about the show, but we received a standing ovation on our opening night, and every night it is the same. We just had a big new cast change in Phantom and we are almost all new to the show, so it is a fresh energy for the fans. We have a lot of energy because we are very happy to be there.
It is a beautiful team, an amazing group of new people. There are three very talented Christines I have the chance to work with, so for me it is a very interesting game every night. It's something new and something new for me, because my leading lady changes every night! It keeps me fresh. I've done nine shows already, working with all three of them. They are very different, but all super talented as well. It's good because, doing eight shows a week, we could settle down. We could do the obvious performances instead of trying to tell the story every night. But if you have someone different in front of you, it's good for us because we can bring something new to that performance that is not exactly the same as the one before.
You've performed in major roles now in Argentina, Spain and the UK, so is there anywhere else in the world you would like to perform a big musical theatre role like these?
Well, Broadway, of course! It's hard because of the visa I would need. It was hard for me to get here to London too. I couldn't go to Spain before because I couldn't work there, but suddenly magically they needed me and I got to go and do Les Mis. Then magically it happened that Cameron Mackintosh called me to the West End. Maybe magically it will happen that I will go to New York some day!
At the moment, I'm really happy here in London. The audiences are very warm, which makes our lives easier - and I really want to thank all of the people who made this dream come true!