BWW Interview: Eva Tavares Talks Playing Christine in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Andrew Lloyd Webber's THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, the longest-running production on Broadway makes a stop in Houston and, thankfully, its legs aren't tired. (How often does a show set you up with "longest-running"? Almost never.) Now through November 18, 2018, Cameron Mackintosh's new production of Webber's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA will play at the Hobby Center. I talked with Eva Tavares, the actress playing ingenue Christine Daaé. During our conversation, she sang the praises of the show's design team*, bragged about the new special effects and pyrotechnics-there's "a lot of fire," she says-and affirmed the depth, courage and independence she finds in her character. Read the interview below.
Eva Tavares started out as a dancer very young-2 ½ years young. She danced and trained competitively for 15 years, then went on to complete a Bachelor's degree in opera at UBC Opera Program. During her time at UBC, Tavares used her dancing skills to fund her music education, dancing and choreographing operas and small-scale productions like burlesque shows. After she finished her degree, she started acting training.
"I realized after I finished university that, for me to be a fully rounded performer, I needed to have acting training," Tavares says. "I think you need [dancing, acting, and singing] to be really grounded. Just to be in your body as a dancer, you know how to move in addition to how to portray emotion. I think it's all connected," she says, adding, with a laugh, "Hopefully, I've got all three now."
Considering that she's now starring as Christine Daaé in the North American tour of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, we can safely assume she does.
When Tavares joined the tour 18 months ago, she gave free rein to her imagination."I tried to go in with an open mind just because there are so many women who have done the role before me," Tavares says. " I tried to look at it with fresh eyes."
The actress was concerned, not only with making strong, creative choices for the role but with making sure the audience can see Christine's strength and inventiveness. "There's the potential to make her a victim in the scenario that she's in. I wanted to portray her as someone very strong [and] able to make her own choices."
Christine is not a victim. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is a story about a young, unassuming girl, reared under the thumb of a Svengalian monster, becoming an independent diva. Moreover, Christine saves the day in the end. Still, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA seems an unlikely vehicle for a strong, female hero.
In 1880s France, where Leroux set THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, women weren't able to vote in political elections and, in 1910, when Leroux released his novel to the French public, this had not changed. When Webber presented his musical on the London stage in 1988, British women were still fighting against sex discrimination in the workplace.
But the production's director, Laurence Connor, supported Tavares' desire to turn the archetypal role into something more meaningful. He also allowed the cast to push against the strictures of the period. "That was good for us," says Tavares. "To have the support to find different ways that we could make the characters grounded and human."
In some cases--THE TAMING OF THE SHREW comes to mind--retrofitting a classic story to appeal to modern sensibilities is like pushing a square peg into a round hole. But in the case of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, it's only natural. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has been in evolving for at least 130 years. Leroux turned an urban legend into a canonical gothic novel. Webber took said gothic novel and created a goth-rock infused 20th century romance musical. Likewise, Connor and his cast and crew have taken the next step, turning THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA into a empowering coming-of-age story.
Eva Tavares is a graduate of the UBC Opera Program and the Banff/Citadel Theatre Professional Training Program. Previous credits include: Maria in WEST SIDE STORY, Anne in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, and most recently, the world premiere of SOUSATZKA, starring Victoria Clark. Eva is active in the dance community, most recently choreographing DIE FLEDERMAUS. Get more of Eva at evatavares.com email@example.com.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; lyrics by Charles Hart, with Richard Stilgoe and Mike Batt; book by Stilgoe, Hart, and Lloyd Webber. Now playing through November 18, 2018 at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby Street. For information, please call (713) 315-2525 or visit BroadwayAtTheHobbyCenter.com.
After Houston, the production will appear at The Orpheum Theatre in Omaha from November 21, 2018 to December 2, 2018. Then the production will continue to San Antonio's Majestic Theatre, playing there from December 7, 2018 - December 17, 2018. Visit ustour.thephantomoftheopera.com for a complete list of tour dates.