Interview: Veteran PHANTOM Cast Member Carrington Vilmont on the Final Chandelier Fall

Vilmont made his Broadway debut in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in 2001 and was in the closing company.

By: Apr. 17, 2023
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In January 2001, Carrington Vilmont made his Broadway debut in The Phantom of the Opera. He has spent the majority of the years since in the company, appearing in the final company as the Auctioneer. As of last night, he had played 6066 performances in the musical. Today he woke up without it.

The Phantom of the Opera"I think it will sink in tomorrow night, when I'm not going to the theater, or a week from now, when I'm not seeing all my wonderful colleagues," he said in a morning interview. "Right now it is no different from any Monday. I think it's going to take at least a few days to sink in."

Over the years, Vilmont has performed as the Auctioneer (his final role), Raoul, Passarino, Marksman, Hairdresser, Monsieur Reyer, Don Attilio, Monsieur Firmin, Joseph Buquet, Jeweler, Fire Chief and Lefevre. He left entirely for a few years, but other than that, has remained with the company, only taking temporary leaves to do small TV roles or regional gigs.

In interviews before and after the final curtain, Vilmont looked back on his time in PHANTOM fondly. In the months and weeks leading up to this final goodbye (of at least this production), he was trying to process. At times he was fine, at others sad.

"I'm trying to keep a level head," he said before the final curtain. "Of course, I'll miss it. I'll miss the people, but I think we'll all be okay. And I find that I can't get too wrapped up in my own emotions if I wanted to do the show reasonably well. So I try to leave that at the door when I can."

He explained that some others in the cast were experiencing their emotions more publicly than he was. They had five months to let it sink in, which, as Vilmont noted, is "longer than many shows run" and, consequently, there were waves of emotion, and the ability to express all of them.

"Emotions have run the gamut backstage," he said. "There seems to be some relief--people will be glad to go to bed early. People have been angry that now that the show is making so much money they are still closing it. There has been also sadness--people will miss the community, the show itself. I think there's a lot of anxiety about money. The whole human experience has been going on backstage."

There was of course a lot of lead up to the closing night. Mega-fans of the show, known as Phans, stepped up their efforts. Being in the ensemble, Vilmont did not always receive fan feedback, but in the last few months the dedicated Phans showed their love for all company members. He even received an embroidery panel, from a Phan named Lee, of him in all his major costumes.The Phantom of the Opera

From the production, company members were given medallions bearing the iconic Phantom mask on one side and on the other side stats on the show and the lyric, "Our games of make believe are at an end." Some backstage photos and such were given away via a "pick a name out of a hat" type system and some cast members gave gifts and cards. On Friday, there was a full company rehearsal of the finale, where they walked through the blocking with Cameron Mackintosh, Andrew Lloyd Webber and the original cast joining them onstage, and also heard the story of the origin of "Music of the Night." (For those who don't know, "Music of the Night" was first called "Married Man" and was intended as an opening number for ASPECTS OF LOVE.)

And then there was last night. The current cast arrived at 3pm to do the red carpet dressed in their party best (which, in Vilmont's case consisted of a blue suit with a brand new pocket square purchased for the occasion and his farewell medallion attached with green ribbon and clips). He ran into some former cast members so the story exchange started right then. With a former Christine Daaé, Vilmont recalled the time her Raoul got sick and had to leave the stage, leaving her to perform both parts of "All I Ask of You" solo. (Vilmont's favorite PHANTOM mishap through the years--not recounted on the red carpet--is when an actor playing Fire Chief, whose line was "It is essential that all doors are secured," went up and said something akin to "It is essential that all boys be straight.")

But when Vilmont entered the theater post-red carpet, the joy briefly ceased. "The theater was empty, so it felt very sad, kind of funereal," he said. "Once I saw all my colleagues, from then on, it felt like a huge party."

He said the performance felt both endless and quick. "The energy from the audience was incredible," he said. "It was a lot of people who knew the show, who had been in the show, so they knew when to clap, when to cheer."

The show went up at around 5:20pm. The finale consisted of speeches from Mackintosh, Lloyd Webber and a rendition of "The Music of the Night" complete with original cast members and a slide show of former company members. At the end, there was onstage champagne and gold streamers filled the audience. People left the theater starting at about 8:10pm.

"It was delightful to drink champagne on the stage with Andrew and Cameron and the original cast," he said. "It was pretty special. It just felt like a party--it was so distinct from a normal show. Typically, we just go backstage, change and try to catch the train as quickly as possible. Since everyone was just hanging out and drinking onstage, it didn't feel like a last show, it was something else, something set apart from the regular grind. So that was a relief to not have the sadness of it being the last time, because it was such a special time."

After that ended, he headed back to his dressing room to put on his blue suit. Instead of heading to the stage door, Vilmont went through the house, like the audience did.

"I ran into all these wonderful people and I just knew everybody out there," he said. "I felt like a superstar--not in a weird way, it was just friends and former colleagues, and everyone seemed thrilled to see each other. I didn't even realize how many people I had worked with and how many wonderful artists had come through that building. It felt like a big reunion."

Then he took the N train to the multi-level party at the Metropolitan Club and partied the night away. He did not even get to one of the upper levels, where there was dancing, but The Phantom of the Operarather stayed downstairs, just drinking and talking. They were kicked out at 1am, but Vilmont would have stayed if not.

"There were a million people I haven't seen for years--it was a delight," he said. "I saw people I shared a dressing room with when I started. You think of all the people that have been in that show and they were there. Someone was dressed as the Red Death. Glenn Close was also there."

Now that this PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is no more, there will be more auditions in Vilmont's future. He already has his next gig lined up: it's a reading of a play about the French Revolution taking place in the city in a couple of weeks. He is also co-producing an independent film. Plus, he hopes to continue taking landscape design classes, something he did through the pandemic. Oh, and he has to come up with new small talk conversation, because he said being in PHANTOM is his usual go-to. While he will miss the show, he is looking forward to having his evenings free.

Tuesday he will actually head back to the Majestic one last time--at least for now--as the cast members are allowed to pick up their few remaining belongings. In terms of show stuff, they are not being allowed to take props or anything of the sort, but Vilmont said he had the option of taking his underwear and some pairs of pink tights. (At publication time he had yet to decide whether he would take them.)

When asked to reflect on what PHANTOM meant to him, he said:

"It gave me my whole career. It allowed me to have a life in New York and have a life in the arts-I think without it I would not have lasted this long. It's just a great gig and I was reminded last night of how many wonderful people I've been able to work it. To have been a part of it has been a great privilege. I'll miss it."