PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Phantom of the Opera Star Hugh Panaro

Cue and A   PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Phantom of the Opera Star Hugh Panaro
Hugh Panaro, who plays the title role in Broadway's long-running production of Phantom of the Opera, fills out's questionnaire with random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Hugh Panaro
Hugh Panaro

Panaro has played both Raoul and The Phantom in the hit musical. He has appeared on Broadway as Marius in Les Misérables, Buddy in Side Show, Julian Craster in The Red Shoes, Ravenal in Show Boat and as the title character in Lestat.

Other theatre credits include Finch in How To Succeed..., Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees, Frederick in The Pirates of Penzance, Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, Franklin Shephard in Merrily We Roll Along, George in Sunday in the Park with George and Bobby in Company. He played Anthony in the Kennedy Center's Sweeney Todd and performed the title role in the American premiere of Martin Guerre.

Panaro received a Barrymore Award for his performance as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables at the Walnut Street Theatre and earned an additional nomination for the role of Fagin in the same company's staging of Oliver!

Full given name: Hugh Timothy Panaro
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Zodiac Sign: Pisces
Current audition song:

I don't really have a specific song since I usually pick something I feel is appropriate or learn a piece from whatever show it is. When I first started auditioning, I sang "I Love You As Much As I Am Able" from Little Me. As far as monologues go, if I don't learn something from the play or show, I love anything from the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.

Special skills: I'm a kick-ass bartender. It's a very special skill around 5 PM!
Skill/talent you wish you had or were better at: I wish I were a better dancer. I took ballet when I was little because I was very pigeon-toed, but the teacher was really MEAN so I quit! I regret it to this day!
First Broadway show you ever saw: Annie! Andrea McArdle was from my 'hood in Philly so my parents bought tickets. It was life changing. I no longer wanted to be a veterinarian.
If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be? Wow, there are so many amazing shows and performers I wish I could have seen, but the first one that comes to mind is Ethel Merman in Gypsy.
Current show you have been recommending to friends: The Phantom of the Opera, DUH!!!
Favorite showtune: OMG! Impossible to pick one as there are so many amazing songs out there. But because it was the very first showtune I EVER sang (when I was 12), and since there are so many memories attached to it, and I still agree with the sentiment of it, I'm gonna say “Tomorrow.”
Three favorite musicals: OMG again!


OK, Gypsy – flawless book and score
West Side StoryLeonard Bernstein = Genius
Sweeney Todd, one of my very favorite Sondheims!

Favorite "guilty pleasure" musical: Carrie – The Musical. I was on tour with Les Miz and my fellow cast mate Scott Elliott (now artistic director of the New Group) and I actually flew in from Boston to NYC to see it! Any musical where the leading lady gets soaked in fake pig's blood and has Betty Buckley belting her face off definitely qualifies as a "guilty pleasure"!
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Meryl Streep, goddess!
The one performance - attended - that you will never forget: Seth Rudetsky's "one night only" 20th anniversary concert of Dreamgirls that took place less than 2 weeks after September 11th, 2001. I had so many friends in the cast that I flew in from LA to see it and, without a doubt, it was one of the most emotional and magical evenings of my life.
Broadway star of the past you would most love to have sung a duet with: Ethel Merman – that would be one LOUD duet!
MAC or PC: MAC, the computer. Sometimes the MAC, the make-up- depending on the show.
Most played song on your iPod: Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It never gets "old," always makes me smile and I love singing along with Freddie Mercury.
Most-visited websites:, DUH!!! Oh, and I'm a huge foodie!!!

Last book you read: "The Bucolic Plague" by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. Laugh out loud funny!
Last good movie you saw: "The Kids Are All Right." Annette Bening rules!
Some films you consider classics:

I'm gonna spin this one my way ‘cause I'm a huge sci-fi/horror fan, so: "King Kong" (the original B&W of course)
"The Exorcist" (I grew up Catholic, so it scared the bejesus out of me!)
"Alien" (love me some Sigourney Weaver!)

Must-see TV show: "Dexter"
Pop-culture guilty pleasure: "South Park"
Favorite cities: NYC, Paris, Rome!
Favorite sport or athlete: Rafael Nadal and the Williams sisters! (sounds like a pop group, doesn't it?)
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: Annie, original cast album. Still in my room at my parents'!
First stage kiss: When I was 15 years old playing Hugo Peabody in Bye, Bye Birdie.
Favorite or most memorable onstage role as a child/teenager:

The Artful Dodger in Oliver! I was 15 and rather "chunky." My mom told me that in my striped pants, bent over Fagin's fireplace, my ass took up the whole stage! Now that was memorable.

Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: The minute the overture started, seeing my first Broadway show, Annie! I was 12.
How you got your Equity card:

I had just moved to New York and was doing my first Off-Broadway show, What’s a Nice Country Like You Doing in a State Like This? at the Actors' Playhouse. There was a casting notice in Backstage for dancer/singers for a production of Chicago at the Coachlight Dinner Theater in East Windsor, CT. I actually found the casting director's home phone number in the white pages and called him to ask if they had cast the leads yet! He asked me who my agent was, and when I said I didn't have one, he said that I should come to the open Equity call. I told him I wasn't in the union and he said that he was sorry, but he couldn't let me audition. I said, "Mr. Zeiner, I don't mean any disrespect, but if you don't let me sing for you, it'll be one of the biggest mistakes you ever make!" The things you say at 20!

Long silence on the other end of the phone, and then, "Drop off your resume at my office" – which I did. He "penciled" me in between time slots and let me audition. I got the role (Mary Sunshine) and my Equity card!

What I found out later was that another actor, who had done the national tour of Chicago, was supposed to play the role, but he had died of AIDS. When I saw his headshot, I was stunned. We could have been brothers. I believe he was an angel.

Favorite pre-show/post-show meal: Sushi at "Rio and You" on 45th Street between Eighth and Ninth. I could eat there every day, before and after my show!
Favorite liquid refreshment: Good champagne! When I toured Europe with Barbra Streisand (oops, I dropped a name!) I got totally spoiled on the most amazing Rose Champagne. It was very dry and delicious – the best I've ever had.
Pre-performance rituals or warm-ups: "Coffee Hour" with my mates at Phantom. There's always pastry or cookies or something chocolate getting passed around. I can't get into make-up without my chocolate fix!
Geno's or Pat's? Neither actually. There's a small local place where I grew up in Philly called Old English Pizza, where they make amazing cheesesteaks. I get mine with extra cheese, mushrooms and fried onions!
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap:

During previews of Elton John's Lestat, I got a brand-new verse of a song that came at the end of Act 1. It was handed to me at 5 PM to be put in the show that night at 8 PM! Now, I'm a quick study, but just to be safe, I wrote out the words on a cue card and taped it to the pit wall behind our conductor! Unfortunately, I didn't take into consideration how blinding a spotlight can be, so in performance that night, I couldn't see a thing (let alone the card) and made up some rather interesting lyrics.

Let's just say Mr. Sondheim has nothing to worry about!

Worst costume ever: In Martin Guerre, there was a scene where I was stripped and dressed for my wedding in full view of the audience, so I had to wear this period undergarment that looked like a "Depend" adult diaper. Not my favorite look!
Worst job you've ever had: When I was 8, I was an "assistant" paper boy. Translation: I helped my best friend deliver his papers every morning at the crack of dawn while he got all the money! Definitely should have had an agent.
Most challenging role, vocally, you've played: I guess I'd have to say Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. Ya can't fake those B naturals every night!
Who would play you in the movie? Hilary Swank. Think about it: she did such a great job in "Boys Don’t Cry"!
Who have you played on "Law & Order"? I played a computer geek at a hotel. I helped Jerry Orbach and Benjamin Bratt find the bad guy.
Leading man role you've been dying to play: Well, ever since I was 12, I wanted to play Tony in West Side Story and the title role in Pippin. Since I'm too old for those roles, now I have my sights set on Sweeney Todd.
Leading lady role you wish you could play: I love character work so I'm going to say Agnes Gooch in Mame! Bet ya don't get that one a lot!
Career you'd have if you weren't a performer: Veterinarian
Quality you admire most in a person: Kindness. It’s underrated.
Three things you can't live without: My dog, my family and dark chocolate!
"I'll never understand why..." ...anyone would ever mistreat an animal.
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