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PHANTOM FLASHBACK: The Men Behind the Mask- Broadway's Past Phantoms

The longest-running show in Broadway history, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, directed by Harold Prince and produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Company, Inc., once again makes theater history when it becomes the first Broadway show ever to celebrate its 25th Anniversary tonight, January 26, 2013.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA became the longest-running show in Broadway history on January 9, 2006 with its 7,486th performance (surpassing the previous record-holder Cats, also by Andrew Lloyd Webber and also produced by Mackintosh). Incredibly, since breaking that record, PHANTOM has played both an additional 6½ years and 2,800 performances - which by itself would be a smash hit run for a Broadway musical.

Below, BroadwayWorld tributes the men behind the mask- the many who have taken on the title role at the Majestic Theatre since it opened in 1988. Check it out below!

Michael Crawford
First Performance: January 9, 1988
Total Shows: 302

In 1967, Crawford made his Broadway debut in Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy with Lynn Redgrave. He next starred in the film adaptation of the musical Hello, Dolly!, alongside Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau. In 1981, Crawford starred in the Original London production of Cy Coleman's Barnum as the illustrious American showman P. T. Barnum. He originated the Phantom in the London cast alongside Sarah Brightman in 1986. He played the role for 2½ years, winning an Olivier Award (Best Actor in a Musical) and a Tony Award (Best Performance By An Actor in a Lead Role, Musical). He returned to Broadway as the Count von Krolock in the short-lived musical Dance of the Vampires (2002-03) and originated the role of the morbidly obese Count Fosco in Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White, which opened at the Palace Theatre, London in September 2004. In February 2011, Crawford played the role of the Wizard in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musical version of The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium.

Timothy Nolen
First Performance: Oct 10, 1988
Total Shows: 159

Nolen made his Broadway debut in 1985 as Doyle in the original production of Larry Grossman's Grind; a portrayal for which he received a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical nomination. He later returned to Broadway to portray the title role in Cyrano: The Musical (1994). His television appearances include guest star appearances on such programs as The Sopranos, Wildfire, and Guiding Light among others. Nolen made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera on October 1, 1996 as Krusina in Bedich Smetana's The Bartered Bride under the baton of James Levine. He has since returned to that house as Baron Zeta in The Merry Widow (2000-2001, with Plácido Domingo as Count Danilovich) and the One-Eyed Man in Die Frau ohne Schatten (2001-2002, with Deborah Voigt as the Empress).

Cris Groenendaal
First Performance: March 20, 1989
Total Shows: 383

Groenendaal has appeared on Broadway in Sweeney Todd, Passion, Sunday in the Park With George, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and he originated the role of Father in the national tour of Ragtime. His solo Broadway/Cabaret show has been featured with major symphony orchestras throughout the United States. He has also performed at Carnegie Hall, with the Boston Pops, the Israel Philharmonic, and other prominent orchestras. He has produced two solo albums, Always and A Christmas Wish, with his wife, conductor/pianist Sue Anderson.

Kevin Gray
First Performance: December 3, 1990
Total Shows: 79

Gray also starred on Broadway as the King in the revival of The King and I, the Prince in Chu-Chem, and Gaylord Ravenal in Harold Prince's staging of Show Boat, first in Chicago, then in the production's Los Angeles premiere. He created the role of The Engineer in the Toronto and Los Angeles premieres of Miss Saigon. He has also sang the lead in Villa-Lobos' Magdalena for CBS Masterworks and is The Engineer on The Complete Miss Saigon, recorded in London.

James Romick
First Performance: February 1990
Total Shows: 347

Some of the many roles Romick has taken on include that of the title character in Lil Abner, Jesus in Godspell, Curley, Will Parker and Judge Fry in Oklahoma!, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Jefferson in 1776, Lancelot in Camelot, Lt. Cable in South Pacific, El Gallo in The Fantastiks and Perchick in Fiddler on the Roof. He has be seen as The Phantom in the 'I Love New York Theatre' commercial, filmed in Times Square on September 28, 2001, as well as on the Rosie O'Donnell Show finale. He has also performed at Giants Stadium as part of the half time entertainment.

Steve Barton
First Performance: March 19, 1990
Total Shows: 213

Barton played leading roles in West Side Story, Godspell, Romeo and Juliet, The Fantasticks, The Threepenny Opera, Oklahoma!, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Guys and Dolls, and Camelot, before playing the role of Munkustrap in the original Vienna cast of Cats, at the Theater an der Wien. At the Theater des Westens in Berlin, he played Robert In Company when he auditioned for The Phantom of the Opera in London, where he originated the role of Raoul. In 1996, Barton returned to Vienna, where he took over the part of the Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. He originated Graf von Krolock in Roman Polanski's Tanz der Vampire, a role which brought him in 1998 an International Music Award. In 1997, Barton celebrated his 30-year onstage anniversary during his run as von Krolock. Tanz der Vampire was also the last musical in which Barton appeared on a stage.

Mark Jacoby
First Performance: February 22, 1991
Total Shows: 822

Jacoby made his Broadway debut after opening the first national touring company of Phantom in Chicago in 1991. Soon after he played Gaylord Ravenal in the Toronto and Broadway casts of Showboat from 1994-1996. He was also the original Father, Ragtime, and played Baron von Gaigern in Grand Hotel, Vittorio Vidal in Sweet Charity (Theatre World Award), The Padre in Man of La Mancha, and Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd. Most recently he starred as Dean Warfield in the world premiere of The Nutty Professor, Walter in Elf on Broadway, and The Wizard of Oz in the first National Tour of Wicked.

Marcus Lovett
First Performance: May 24, 1993
Total Shows:

Lovett began his professional career at nineteen in Chicago in One Shining Moment at Drury Lane, Watertower, and later landed his first Broadway job in the original Broadway production of LES MISERABLES. His other Broadway and West End credits include: King David (title role), Whistle Down the Wind (The Man), Carousel (Billy Bigelow), Aspects of Love(Alex Dillingham). His Off-Broadway credits include: Urinetown (Bobby Strong), Queen Amarantha, The World Goes 'Round: The Music of Kander and Ebb. Workshops of Up Against It and The Knife.

Davis Gaines
First Performance: July 4, 1994
Total Shows: 866

Gaines was one of few to play Raoul on Broadway before taking on the PhantoM. Davis also played the leading role in the world premiere of Whistle Down the Wind in Washington, D.C. Additional theatre credits include Cornelius Hackl in Hello, Dolly!, Camelot, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Sitting Pretty, The Cat and the Fiddle, Pippin and The Boys From Syracuse. Gaines was the singing voice of Chamberlain in The Swan Princess (1994). He also played the role of Antony in Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in concert, alongside George Hearn and Patti LuPone. In February 2012, Gaines took on the role of Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha at Musical Theatre West in Long Beach, California.

Thomas James O'Leary
First Performance: October 11, 1996
Total Shows: 774

After playing the Phantom for three-plus years, Harold Prince chose him to portray the Phantom for the tenth anniversary performance in 1998. He also appeared in the original Broadway production of Miss Saigon, directed by Nicholas Hytner, and in the first national companies of Les Miserables and Chess. Before moving to Los Angeles in late 2005, he worked for 20 years in New York theatre, starring in classics by Shakespeare and G.B. Shaw, but mostly new works, including the world premiere of Jon Tolin's Off-Broadway hit The Last Sunday in June and the New York premiere of Thomas Gibbons' Bee-Luther-Hatchee. He also starred in the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway revivals of Medal of Honor Rag and Lee Blessing's Two Rooms at the Blue Heron Theatre.

Brad Little
First Performance: 1997
Total Shows: 48

Little made his national debut in 1988 in the United States national tour of Anything Goes as Billy Crocker. The next year, he took the role of Perchik in the Broadway and national tour productions of Fiddler on the Roof; in 1993, he played Cpt. De Castel Jaloux in Cyrano the Musical. In 1994, Little joined the cast of The Phantom of the Opera as Raoul, and in 1996, he joined the musical's national tour as the Phantom. In 2010, Little co-starred in the Korean musical "Tears of Heaven" with Xiah, formerly of TVXQ and now of JYJ.

Hugh Panaro
First Performance: February 1, 1999
Broadway's current Phantom

He made his West End debut in the original London company of Harold Prince's Show Boat as Ravenal, the role he played on Broadway and in Toronto. At Avery Fisher Hall, he performed with the Radio City Rockettes in Jerry Herman's Mack and Mabel. He is one of the few actors to play both the roles of Raoul (1991) and the Phantom (1999) in the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera. In late 2005 he created the title role in the Elton John musical, Lestat. In 2009, he starred in Sunday in the Park with George at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle and most recently appeared as Fagin in "Oliver!" at the Walnut Street Theatre in 2009.

Howard McGillin
First Performance: August 23, 1999
Total Shows: 2,544

McGillin originated the role of John Jasper in The Mystery of Edwin Drood at the Imperial Theatre; for his performance he was nominated for a 1986 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. He earned a second Tony nomination in 1988 for his portrayal of Billy Crocker in the Broadway revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes. McGillin starred in the award-winning West End revival of Mack & Mabel and sings on the cast album recording. He also received high praise as Molina in the Kander and Ebb musical Kiss of the Spider Woman. McGillin originated a leading role in the world premiere of Stephen Sondheim's 2003 musical Bounce and was featured in the Encores! production of the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936. He recently played Applegate in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of Damn Yankees! in Millburn, New Jersey, which ran from March 7, 2012 through April 1, 2012.

David Gaschen
First Performance: November 1999
Total Shows: 95

Gaschen has performed the title role in Germany and on Broadway. He has also starred as Karl Franz in The Student Prince, Frederic in the Pirates of Penzance with Light Opera Works in Chicago, and Count Formaggio in the world premiere of Seymour Barab's comic Opera La Pizza Con Funghi in New York City. Gaschen also recorded a solo CD called "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy," and more recently released a new, self-titled CD, "David Gaschen." He has also appeared with orchestras include the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, Wheeling Symphony Orchestra and Lubbock Symphony Orchestra.

Gary Mauer
First Performance: April 30, 2007
Total Shows: 25

On Broadway, Gary starred as Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny in Phantom and played the role of Enjolras in LES MISERABLES. He has also appeared in numerous regional shows, including playing Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, Anthony in Sweeney Todd, and Frederick in Pirates of Penzance. From April 30, 2007 through May 19, 2007. He can be heard on several CDs, including Bravo Broadway and Broadway's Fabulous Phantoms. In 2007, he recorded his own album, This Is the Moment, which includes "The Music of the Night", from The Phantom of the Opera, and "Bring Him Home", from LES MISERABLES.

John Cudia
First Performance: May 22, 2008
Total Shows: 473

Cudia's first role on Broadway was Feuilly in LES MISERABLES. He went on to play many of the lead male roles in LES MISERABLES, including Jean Valjean. He played Raoul on Broadway for 3 years (2003-2005), where he was an understudy for the Phantom. Cudia most recently joined the 2012 revival of Evita as a member of the ensemble and understudy for Juan Perón.

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