Friday, 16 September 2011

Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary & Interview with former Piangi, Lee David Bowen

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness in the Capital.

Access London has been running a series of posts over the last month to celebrate the forthcoming 25th Anniversary of Phantom of the Opera in October. The show began previews on 27th September 1986 and officially opened the following month. Since then, the show has been seen by over 130 million people and won over 50 major theatre awards, making it the most successful piece of entertainment.

"Far beneath the majesty and splendour of the Paris Opera House, hides the Phantom in a shadowy existence. Shamed by his physical appearance and feared by all, the love he holds for his beautiful protégée Christine Daaé is so strong that even her heart cannot resist."

Phantom's London home is at Her Majesty's Theatre on the Haymarket. For those of you who are wheelchair or scooter users, this theatre is definitely accessible for you! On arrival, simply make yourself known to someone at front of house (usually someone outside from 45 minutes before the start of a performance) and they will escort you around to the accessible entrance on Charles II Street. This entrance leads you straight into the back of the stalls. Facilities: wheelchair spaces, transfer to aisle seats, accessible WC, handrails, gentle rake, wheelchair/scooter storage, assistance to get interval drinks and fetch wheelchair/scooter.

*There are evening performances Monday-Saturday at 7.30pm. There are also matinee performances on Tuesday and Saturday at 2.30pm until the end of October. After this, the matinees will be performed on Thursday and Saturday!*

The Phantom 25th celebrations at The Royal Albert Hall on the 1st and 2nd October will be screened to selected cinemas in the UK and worldwide. There will also be a DVD filmed and new CD recording available to buy from November. Until then, you can always buy the original London cast recording and the original Canadian cast recording.

To book access seats for Phantom, please call 0844 412 4648 where you can get unrestricted view seats in the stalls from £22.50 each for you and a companion/carer! For all other tickets types for Phantom, please call 0844 412 2707.

Access London's next Phantom 25 post will look more at the accessible facilities available at The Royal Albert Hall.

For every Phantom 25th post Access London has written, we have been delighted to share with you an interview we have done with a current/former/original cast member. Today, we are delighted to share with you an interview with former Piangi, Lee Bowen. Access London would like to take this opportunity to say a huge Thank You to Lee for taking the time to answer our questions and for all his continued support for Access London.

AL: You joined the cast of Phantom after it had been running for almost 15 years. What was it like to join such an iconic and much-loved show?
LB: This was a dream job for me, I had always wanted to be a performer in the West End and to get a job in one of its most iconic shows was amazing. It was a great challenge to take on the role of Piangi after many acclaimed performers but I was given a great deal of encouragement from the production team and was able to develop the character and add my own personal stamp upon Piangi.

AL: Why do you think audiences come back to watch the show time and again?
LB: I think as a piece of work it ticks all the boxes - it has a great story, the music is great with some of Lloyd-Webber's best writing not only for solo voice but for ensemble and orchestral music. Also the sets and costumes are fantastic. Emotionally it takes you into a world of fantasy but with a touch of reality which is totally gripping.
Mix that with Hal Prince (original director), Gillian Lynne (choreography), Charles Hart (lyrics) and Maria Bjornson (design) and you have a success!

AL: You played Piangi in the show, what was it like to play such an extrovert and diva-like character?
LB: Piangi was a great role for me as he is so extrovert and diva like, everything about him was exaggerated and over the top which is something I really enjoy . I was also very lucky as the production team really allowed me to put my personal stamp upon the character and also to have Sian Cothi playing the role of Carlotta. We started at the same time and together we worked really well on stage.

AL: What was your favourite song/scene to perform in the show?
LB: My favourite scene would have to be the first managers scene in the first half. Here, the real character of Piangi is really seen as someone quite vulnerable. Also there are some great musical moments in this scene especially during "prima donna" where as a singer you have a great line an octave above the two managers. Interestingly in the original production Piangi actually wasn't in this scene and added at a later date. Although, I did enjoy the opening scene with the elephant and very heavy cloak!

AL: Which Phantoms and Christines did you perform alongside?
LB: I was lucky enough to perform alongside one of the best Phantoms in Scott Davies also John Owen-Jones and Richard Halton. I worked alongside Charlotte Paige, Deborah Dutcher and a long-term friend from my part of the world Claire Louise Hammacott.

AL: You sang the voiceover for Piangi in the 2004 film version of Phantom, what was that experience like?
LB: The actual recording of the soundtrack was a great experience and I feel very privileged to have been asked at the last minute.

AL: If you could play any role(s) in musical theatre, what would it/they be?
LB: I would love to play the role of Thenardier in Les Miserables, this would be the absolute dream for me. Other roles include Mr Bumble in Oliver and Pirelli in Sweeney Todd.

AL: Lastly, do you have a birthday message for Phantom of the Opera and its' fans?
LB: Penblwydd Hapus/ Happy Birthday to Phantom of the Opera after an incredible 25 years in the West End. Diolch yn fawr/ thank you to all the dedicated fans who have loved the show and kept it at the top for so long. Here's to the next 25 years. Lots of love, Lee Bowen.

Since this interview, Lee has changed his stage name to Lee Bowen.
You can find out more about Lee on his agent's site MUSIC INTERNATIONAL
You can also follow Lee for all his latest news on Twitter @LeeBowenTenor

COMING NEXT: The Belle's Stratagem & The Southwark Playhouse
COMING SOON: The Cavendish Hotel's Autumn Offer, Priscilla and Interview, The Globe Exhibition, More Phantom 25 and Interviews (including Sofia Escobar, Rosemary Ashe, Rebecca Caine, Scott Davies, Gina Beck....)

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