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BWW Interviews: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA On Tour Storm Lineberger (Raoul) Shares San Antonio Local Connection

As the city of San Antonio recently enjoyed a sold-out run of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, a graduate of Reagan High School, Storm Lineberger was thrilled for the opportunity to return to his hometown playing the role of Raoul in this award-winning musical. BWW caught up with him while he was in town. Storm shared his enthusiasm as well as his gratitude for all the support San Antonio and the Las Casas Foundation has given him as he performed at the Majestic.

How did you first get interested in performing?

My family is very artistic. My mother's side, they are traditional Lebanese which is much like Greek families or Hispanic families; very musical in nature, plays songs together and sing. Singing had always been a part of my youth growing up. I was really into sports. When I was in high school, I tore my ACL and meniscus, completely shattered all of it and had to get surgery twice on my knee. And trying to get back into it (sports) took the fun out of it and I was no longer enjoying it. A friend of mine during my recovery period had mentioned why don't you try out for a musical? The activity may not be as stressful on your knee. I went ahead and did that and I haven't looked back. I enjoyed it so much and suddenly I felt like I was with like-minded people and before I didn't realize that I was having to conform (to those involved in sports). In theater, I felt like I could be myself. From then on, I continued to excel and (in) my senior year of high school, my theater director had told me that this is something (he thought) I could do. I tried my hand at auditions and I told myself if I don't get into the schools I want to get into, I'm not doing it and I'm going to become a lawyer. My mother's an attorney and I think as far as professions are concerned, I'm also equipped to do that. Turned out, I got into my number one school which was Oklahoma (State University) because it was close to home and it's an incredible musical theater school. I went there and I trained for four years, got my degree, my BFA in Musical Theater Performance and I moved to New York. Prior to that I did one small summerstock gig that summer as Prince Eric (in THE LITTLE MERMAID) and I did ensemble in LES MIS. at the Lyric Theater of Oklahoma. I moved to New York in late July and booked this at the end of August. Rehearsed for four weeks and then opened November of 2014.

You grew up in San Antonio and you're back visiting again. How does it feel to be back in San Antonio?

It's incredible. We're driving past the Alamo right now. I never thought I would be performing at the Majestic at all. I didn't think I would have the opportunity to do something like that let alone this quickly and it's been surreal. When we had our soundcheck, I had the ability to be on the stage with the lights up before it all happened. I remember thinking to myself as Chris Mann is singing "The Music of the Night" in his soundcheck, this is the first place I heard this music. Webber's music in the show is iconic and changes your life when you hear it. Not only knowing that I'm doing that music, but also in the place that I heard it the first time, in my hometown. It was all very overwhelming. I continue to think to myself when I'm up there, I need to treasure this. This is incredibly monumental for me and I will always look back on this moment knowing that it was very special and I feel very grateful to be here.

Have family and friends come to see the show?

Many, many family and friends I didn't know I had before's been wonderful. The reception's been great. San Antonio's always been a very prideful town and I feel so very lucky to be a recipient of that pride right now as shown by the City Council and the mayor and Las Casas. Their pride for me has been really special. I'm not the only one from San Antonio in this show. Tynan Davis is as well. She's an understudy and she's getting to go on as her main understudy track as Mme. Giry this week and it's really special for her. I'm proud of her as well.

Tell us a little more about your Las Casas connection.

In my audition process for my senior year (in high school), I was also auditioning for scholarship programs because the price of most private schools, although I ended up at a public university, most private schools (costs) are huge. I wanted to get myself on the ground so one of the programs was Las Casas which also renovated and restored the Majestic and Empire Theatres here in San Antonio as well as revitalizing the community theater. So, I had a great experience with them. Their scholarship program was in its infancy when I was there. It was only the second year and they were still trying to increase the money that they were able to give but they gave as much as they could. I was happy to win some of that money. I used it for transportation to get to auditions and get to school because that's a cost a lot of people don't think about and I continued to stress it because the money's important. It's used immediately and it clearly pays dividends as I am a prime example of that. I've come back in a show performing for my hometown almost as soon as I possibly could and that money that they put forward and I'm so grateful for and hosted me and everything they did for me has really paid off. And I think that's important.

What roles do you dream of playing someday?

There are many roles. I'll start with an absurd one that's never gonna happen. I would love to play Julie Jordan in CAROUSEL but that's a female role so maybe a reverse casting. That's a dream role that I know I'll never play and that's literally a dream role. But, realistically speaking, there is Chris in MISS SAIGON, there's ValJean in LES MIS., Roger in RENT, the list goes on and on. A lot of those opportunities I hope to have the chance to audition for and hopefully one of them will bend my way.

What advice do you have for anyone thinking about getting into show business?

The biggest advice that I continue to give because I've had such a small window of experience but what I know to be true is you must be ready. I was ready when I auditioned and that's why I got the part. I was right for the role, yes, and I was at the right place at the right time, but all those things can happen and you cannot be ready and you cannot recognize it. I've seen it before already from my friends where they weren't necessarily recognizing the moment and seizing it. I know that's what I did because I worked so hard to do that and while I was doing the audition process, I made sure that I knew all of my material so that when I was in the room and open and present for the casting directors and directors I was flexible so I could be what they wanted. That preparation starts immediately from (when) you're in high school and you're looking to do this as a career that preparation starts now by looking as schools to go to, looking at programs to learn and to be organized and to know what the steps are. Last night, not to steal his words, but Jay Lusteck, who's also in the show, said, "Try everything." That holds true. You must try everything because the proverbial they expect to be accepting of whatever comes your way so if you try everything, you're not leaving any room for doubt.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA continues to sell-out all over the United States. Go to their website to see if the show is coming to an area near you.

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