Welcome back to Access London and thank you once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness in the Capital.
Today's post is a special one as it marks the first in a series that Access London is devoting to the worldwide phenomenon that is Phantom of the Opera and the celebrations surrounding its 25th Anniversary on the West End stage this Autumn.
As you may have read in previous posts on Phantom from Access London, its West End home is at Her Majesty's Theatre on the Haymarket (5 minutes from Leicester Sq and Piccadilly Circus). This has been the Phantom's home since it first opened on the 9th October 1986 and has been playing to a packed house ever since then.
The role of the Phantom was originally played by Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman played opposite him as Christine Daae. Since then, many 'Phantastically' talented performers have donned the famous mask to play the mysterious character of the Phantom and they have been joined by equally stunning performers taking on the roles of Christine Daae, Raoul Vicomte de Chagny, Madame Giry, Meg Giry, Carlotta, Piangi, the suffering Theatre Managers and other cast members.
Her Majesty's theatre, although being an old and majestic building, has put many measures in place to make sure that the show is accessible to as many as possible. There is a level entrance on Charles II Street that gives you Access into the stalls area, an accessible toilet, an usher to take care of disabled guests during their time in the theatre (including fetching interval drinks and programmes), dedicated wheelchair spaces or the opportunity to transfer into aisle seats whilst your wheelchair or scooter is stored away for you and a fabulous Access Rate that allows disabled visitors to watch the show at a fraction of the cost of a normal-priced seat in the stalls.
As mentioned above, this year marks Phantom's 25th Anniversay and to commemorate this landmark occasion, several concerts are to be staged at The Royal Albert Hall in celebration. Ramin Karimloo will be donning the mask once more to play the titular role whilst, Sierra Boggess will star as Christine Daae - both performers shared the stage together for a year playing The Phantom and Christine Daae in the Phantom sequel, Love Never Dies recently.
There are to be 3 shows of this fully staged concert: 1st October 7.30pm, 2nd October 1.30pm and 7.00pm. All public tickets for these shows have now sold out but you can still enjoy and celebrate Phantom's 25 years by watching the show at Her Majesty's that still plays 8 times a week - Monday to Saturday evenings and matinee performances on a Tuesday and Saturday. The show currently stars John Owen Jones as The Phantom, Sofia Escobar as Christine and Will Barrett as Raoul. Access London does have tickets to one of the celebration concerts and will have more posts about the event and Access at the Hall in forthcoming posts.
To book Access tickets to see Phantom at Her Majesty's, please call: 0844 412 4648 For all other ticket types for the show, please call: 0844 412 4653
For those who were unable to get tickets to the concerts or live too far away to attend, Access London is celebrating the event by sharing with our readers interviews with many current and former cast members from Phantom and some original cast members too. We will post more about the show, its background and story in forthcoming posts, so keep an eye out for them (or 'follow' this blog). In the meantime, we are going to kick off with our first interview with former Raoul - Mr Michael Xavier. Access London would like to take this opportunity to once again thank Michael for taking the time to answer our questions and help to support Access London and disability access and awareness.
AL: How did you land the part of Raoul?
MX: I auditioned for the role of Raoul whilst playing Sky in Mamma Mia and was very fortunate to get the role just 2 weeks after I finished Mamma Mia. Timing is everything in this industry!
AL: You joined the cast of Phantom after it had been running for over 20 years. How did it feel to be part of such an iconic and much loved show?
MX: It's always quite scary to play a role in a show that's been running for many years let alone a show that is so universally known as Phantom. You want to serve the story and present the character in the most truthful light but you're always aware that some people may not enjoy your interpretation. That can be tough. However, to play such an iconic role is thrilling! I saw the show when I was only 15 and never would have dreamed to have been playing the role roughly ten years later.
AL: In your opinion, why do you think that audiences fall in love with the story and come to see it time and again?
MX: The story is brilliantly universal! The notion of being misunderstood and different I believe resonates very powerfully in everyone no matter how popular you believe you are. And the idea that love permeates the heart beyond superficiality is both true and wonderfully romantic. People want to know that no matter who you are and what you look like (in this media and aesthetic-obsessed world), you can be loved. That is why audiences love it and come back time and again!
AL: Who were the Phantom(s) and Christine(s) that you played opposite?
MX: I played opposite Earl Carpenter as The Phantom (and Ramin Karimloo as the understudy). Christine was played initially by Celia Graham and Katie Knight-Adams then Robyn North and Leila Benn Harris came in to take over after 6 months. The understudy was Tabitha Webb but I did do a few shows with Rachel Barrell.
AL: What was your favourite song/scene to perform in the show?
MX: My favourite song was All I Ask Of You as it's such a beautiful melody and intense scene. My favourite scene was the final lair. However, I did love jumping through the stage from the bridge. A nice adrenaline rush every night!
AL: Phantom is full of special effects and technical elements - have you got a tale to tell of a mishap during a show?
MX: Oh probably, but my memory is awful! Ah yes, it's all coming back to me now. I used to get hit quite often with the fireballs from the phantom's staff and I'm surprised my head never caught fire with the amount of hairspray I had on! Also, I used to crack my elbow on the side of the trap door I had to jump through on a regular basis. I had some lovely bruises to show off!
AL: If you could play any role(s) in musical theatre, what would it/they be?
MX: If I could play any role in Musical Theatre it would probably be Sweeney Todd. It's so brilliantly written and has so much depth and darkness to the character which is different from other roles I've played.
AL: Lastly, do you have a Birthday Message for Phantom of the Opera and its fans?
MX: Yes, I'm thrilled that The Phantom Of The Opera is still running and still drawing in attention from around the world. It's a beautiful story and wonderful score. It is a musical theatre institution in itself. Congratulations on 25 fabulous years! To the fans, I'd like to say thank you for all your support and enthusiasm over the years. Without you it would no longer be running. You have kept a fantastic show alive! Bravo!
We hope you enjoyed reading Michael's responses as much as we did. Stay tuned for more interviews with the Phantom cast over the next couple of months.
In the meantime, if you would like to keep up to date with Michael's latest news, performances and also news about his forthcoming album PLEASE VISIT HIS WEBSITE You can also Follow Michael on Twitter at @michaelxavierMX and Befriend him on Facebook at Michael Xavier
Our next Access London Phantom 25th interview will be with a former Phantom, so keep an eye out for this coming soon.
You can follow Access London updates on Twitter by following @HorizonVA