Longtime Phantom John Cudia exited the Harold Prince-directed production of the hit musical by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, as did Jennifer Hope Wills — as the impressionable soprano and object of the Phantom's ardour — on Sept. 4.
Panaro has played both Raoul and The Phantom on Broadway. He starred as Lestat in the musical of the same name, and also appeared in Les Miserables, Side Show, The Red Shoes and Show Boat.
Panaro first joined the New York cast in December 1990 as Raoul, a role he played for over two years and more than 900 performances. In February 1999 he was invited to take over the title role.
Panaro won a Barrymore Award for playing Jean Valjean in Les Misérables at Walnut Street Theatre; he has a second nomination for his performance as Fagin in Oliver! at WST.
Former Phantom national tour star Ford originally made her Phantom (and Broadway) debut with the New York company in March 2007 as the Mirror Bride and the cover for the role of Christine. In September 2007 she took over the role of Christine on the national tour, playing it for nearly a year. Ford's other Broadway credits include the current Broadway revival of A Little Night Music as Mrs. Anderson (Anne/Petra cover) and Finian's Rainbow as Arlene (Sharon cover). Off-Broadway, she starred as Luisa in the new production of The Fantasticks and can be heard on the original revival cast recording. She appeared in Wicked in Chicago (Glinda/Nessarose cover), as June in Anyone Can Whistle at City Center for Encores! and originated the role of Nellie Oleson in the national tour of Little House on the Prairie–The Musical.
The musical — produced by Cameron Mackintosh/Really Useful Group, Inc. — is now in its 23rd year on Broadway.
For the record, Panaro was the tenth of the 12 men cast as Broadway's Phantom. Ford is the 14th actress to be cast as Christine in the New York production.
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