Hugh Panaro & Sara Jean Ford Return to PHANTOM Sept. 7, 2010
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. Produced by Cameron Mackintosh/Really Useful Group, Inc. and directed by Harold Prince, the musical is in its phenomenal 23rd year in New York, playing at The Majestic Theatre (247 West 44th Street).
Broadway favorite Hugh Panaro will return to the title role starting Tuesday evening, September 7. Mr. Panaro has a long association with PHANTOM and is one of the few actors to have been cast as both The Phantom and Raoul in the Broadway production. He first joined the New York cast in December 1990 as Raoul, a role he would play for over two years and more than 900 performances. In February 1999 he was invited to take over the title role, which he played to rave reviews. With over 1,000 performances as The Phantom, he's so far performed in over 2,000 performances of the Broadway production.
Former PHANTOM National Tour star Sara Jean Ford will take over the leading role of Christine in the Broadway production, also beginning performances Tuesday evening, September 7. Ms. Ford originally made her PHANTOM (and Broadway) debut with the New York Company in March 2007 as the Mirror Bride and covering the role of Christine. In September 2007 she took over the role of Christine on the National Tour, playing it for nearly a year.
Mr. Panaro was the tenth of the twelve men cast as Broadway's "Man Behind the Mask." Ms. Ford is the fourteeth actress to be cast as Christine in the New York production.
A long-time romantic lead on Broadway, Hugh Panaro's other credits include the title role in Lestat, Buddy in Side Show, Gaylord Ravenal in Harold Prince's production of Showboat, Julian in The Red Shoes, Marius in the original production of Les Misérables and the title role in the American premiere of the Cameron Mackintosh production of Martin Guerre. An in-demand performer with symphony orchestras around the world (including touring Europe with Barbara Streisand), he's also worked in Regional productions across the country. His work at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre won him a Barrymore Award for his starring performance as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables and a second nomination for his performance as Fagin in Oliver!.
Sara Jean Ford's other Broadway credits include the current Broadway revival of A Little Night Music as MrS. Anderson (Anne/Petra cover) and Finian's Rainbow as Arlene (Sharon cover). Off-Broadway, she starred as Louisa in the new production of The Fantasticks and can be heard on the original revival cast recording. She's appeared in Wicked in Chicago (Glinda/Nessarose cover), as June in Anyone Can Whistle at City Center for Encores! and originated the role of Nellie Oleson in the national tour of Little House on the Prairie-The Musical.
Mr. Panaro succeeds John Cudia, who also boasts a long history with the musical. He first joined the National Tour in December 1999 and quickly took over the role of Raoul (two years on tour and two and a half years on Broadway), a role that on many occasions in New York he played opposite Mr. Panaro's Phantom. Mr. Cudia would go on to establish himself as a critically-acclaimed Phantom, first with the National Tour (over 900 performances) and then on Broadway (over 450 performances).
Ms. Ford succeeds Jennifer Hope Wills, who's played Christine both on Broadway and with the National Tour. She first joined the New York Company in April 2006 as the Christine Alternate. That summer she was invited to play Christine on tour before taking over as the Broadway production's leading lady in December 2006. Since that time, the popular performer has gone on to play the role over 850 times for New York audiences.
Mr. Cudia and Ms. Wills will together play their final performance on Saturday evening, September 4.
Continuing in their roles with the New York Company are Ryan Silverman (Raoul), George Lee Andrews (Monsieur André), David Cryer (Monsieur Firmin), Patricia Phillips (Carlotta), Cristin J. Hubbard (Madame Giry), Evan Harrington (Piangi) and Heather McFadden (Meg Giry). At certain performances, Marni Raab plays Christine. Mr. Andrews is an original Broadway cast member of PHANTOM and in 2006 was recognized by Guinness World Records as the inaugural record-holder for the performer with the longest time in the same Broadway show - a record he still holds and continues to add to with each performance.
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. Incredibly, since breaking that record, the production has played both an additional 4½ years and an additional 1,900 performances. During this time, it's also become the first and only show in Broadway history to play milestone performances 8,000 and 9,000 and celebrate its 18th through 22nd Anniversaries.
Now in its unprecedented 23rd Year, the Broadway production remains a box office camp and continues to play with no end in sight.
In addition to its longevity records, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is also the most successful stage musical of all time, with worldwide grosses to date estimated in excess of $5 billion (far surpassing the highest-grossing film of all time, Avatar, which has grossed $2.7 billion worldwide). The winner of 7 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the New York production has played over 9,300 performances, been seen by nearly 14 million people and grossed over $780 million.
Worldwide, over 65,000 performances have been seen by 100 million people in 27 countries and 144 cities. There are currently seven productions around the world: London, New York, Budapest (Hungary), Nagoya (Japan), Seoul (Korea), the U.S. National Tour (which concludes its record-breaking run in November 2010) and a revised production in Las Vegas at The Venetian. The original cast-recording, with over 40 million copies sold worldwide, is the best-selling cast recording of all time.
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.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is directed by Harold Prince. Lyrics are by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe) and the book is by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has production design by the late Maria Björnson, lighting by Andrew Bridge and sound design by Mick Potter with original sound by Martin Levan. Musical staging and choreography is by Gillian Lynne. Orchestrations are by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The performance schedule for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is Monday evenings at 8PM, Tuesday evenings at 7PM, Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8PM, with matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2PM. Ticket prices range from $26.50 - $121.50 with Premium Tickets also available. To order tickets visit telecharge.com or call (212) 239-6200.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus