Hugh Panaro Will Haunt Phantom's 25th Anniversary Performance on Broadway; New Troupers Announced for Fall
By Kenneth Jones
Cameron Mackintosh/Really Useful Group, Inc., the producers of The Phantom of the Opera, confirmed on Oct. 26 that the man behind the mask for the show's milestone 25th anniversary performance on Broadway in January will be current and longtime star Hugh Panaro.
Full details of the special Jan. 26 gala anniversary performance are being kept secret. It was previously announced that Sierra Boggess (Phantom — The Las Vegas Spectacular, London's Love Never Dies) will join the cast as impressionable soprano Christine Daae for a strictly limited engagement starting the week of Jan. 21.
Principal cast changes for the fall were also announced by the Phantom leadership, including director Harold Prince. Performances play the Majestic Theatre.
Panaro has a history of playing the Tony Award-winning show's rivals — both The Phantom and Raoul. He was first cast in December 1990 as Raoul, a role he played for more than two years and over 900 performances. In February 1999 he took over the title role, becoming the 10th of 12 men to be cast as The Phantom on Broadway.
To date, Panaro has played The Phantom with the New York Company over 1,800 times in 3 different engagements, including his most recent return that began in September 2010. Combined, he has performed (as both The Phantom and Raoul) in over 2,800 performances of the Broadway production.
Marni Raab, seen internationally in The Phantom of the Opera, will play Christine beginning Nov. 13 through January. (Boggess will join the New York cast beginning the week of Jan. 21, "for a strictly limited engagement in connection with the 25th anniversary"). Raab has played Christine across the country and around the globe (in the show's Asian world tour) and is currently the New York company's Christine Alternate. (The Principal Christine plays six performances a week with the Christine Alternate playing two.) Raab succeeds Trista Moldovan, who will play her final performance as Christine on Nov. 10. Canadian actress Samantha Hill will make her Phantom and Broadway debut as Christine Alternate on Nov. 12.
Three other principal cast changes were announced, all beginning Monday evening, Nov. 12.
Tony Award nominee Tim Jerome (Me and My Girl) will return to the production as gruff opera house manager Monsieur Firmin, a role he previously played when the show broke the record to become the longest-running show in Broadway history in January 2006. He played the role from October 2005 through January 2006. His other many stage credits include the Broadway productions of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan, Grand Hotel, The Magic Show, Cats, Lost in Yonkers, The Rothschilds, Man of La Mancha, The Lyons, La Boheme and Creation of the World; as well as many roles Off-Broadway and regionally.
Jerome succeeds Kevin Ligon who assumed the role in September 2011. His final performance will be Nov. 10.
Current cast member Jim Weitzer, a former Raoul (the third romantic lead in the musical), will make the transition from his current role as Monsieur Reyer to the principal role of comic opera house manager Monsieur André. Originally a Raoul on the national tour, Weitzer was the ninth actor to take over the role of Raoul in the Broadway production. He is the only actor cast as Raoul to take over the role of André in the Broadway production.
Weitzer succeeds Aaron Galligan-Stierle, who assumed the role in September 2011. His final performance will be Nov. 10.
Ellen Harvey will make her Phantom debut, as mysterious ballet mistress Madame Giry. Harvey originated the role of Miss Jones in the 2011 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying starring Daniel Radcliffe. Her other credits include the Broadway productions of The Music Man and Thou Shalt Not, Shakespeare in the Park's recent Into the Woods (Cinderella's Stepmother), New York City Opera's Most Happy Fella and national tours of Mary Poppins (Miss Andrew, Helen Hayes nomination), Disney's High School Musical (Ms. Darbus), Mamma Mia! (Tanya) and Sunset Boulevard.
She succeeds Cristin J. Hubbard, a long-time Broadway cast member who joined as a member of the Ensemble in January 2009 before taking over as Madame Giry in June 2009. Her final performance will be Nov. 10.
Continuing in their roles with the New York company are Kyle Barisich (Raoul), Michele McConnell (Carlotta), Christian Sêbek (Piangi) and Kara Klein (Meg).
Additional casting will be announced in the coming weeks.
The special night (with to-be-announced post-show celebrations) will begin with an early 6:30 PM performance. It is not currently on sale to the public.
For more information about the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, visit phantombroadway.com.
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