It’s Phantom Week at Broadway.com! In honor of the musical’s 25th Broadway birthday on January 26, we’re unveiling exclusive interviews, fun facts and surprises about The Phantom of the Opera all week long. We asked Broadway’s five longest-running Phantoms to share their craziest onstage moments, favorite phan gifts and more insights about the mysterious masked man. Next up, Howard McGillin, who holds the record for the longest-running Broadway Phantom with a whopping 2,544 performances beginning in 1999, explains why the beloved Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is like riding a perfect California wave, and share a second tale of onstage nausea!
Choose three adjectives that best describe the Phantom.
Deeply scarred, obsessive, genius.
How did you pass the time during the long makeup process of becoming the Phantom?
It's a long time in the chair. Crosswords help!
What is your favorite moment in the show, and why?
Hard to beat that final scene with Christine and Raoul. Hugely cathartic. Letting it all go like that is extremely satisfying.
What is the craziest thing that ever happened during a performance?
Raoul (I think it was Gary Mauer) became violently ill during the rooftop scene and left the stage to throw up, and without skipping a beat, Lisa Vroman sang BOTH parts of "All I Ask Of You." Flawlessly, I might add. I was so impressed, suspended 30 feet above her as I was at the time.
True or false: Raoul is a wimp. Discuss.
Well, let's just say he can't compete with The Phantom's intensity. I won't judge. I will say that I think Christine makes a terrible choice in the end.
When did you last sing "Music of the Night"?
At a benefit two weeks ago at The Cafe Carlyle. It is the single most-requested song anywhere I go. And I'm very lucky to have it in my life.
What's the best gift a Phantom phan gave you?
Their loyalty. It is unlike anything I've ever experienced. Again, very lucky.
What's the best thing about playing the Phantom—and why are actors willing to play such a demanding role for long periods of time?
Well, on a purely selfish, actor-y level, it's pretty hard to beat that reaction at the end of the show. The crowd goes nuts. Every show. That doesn't happen very often in the theater. And the playing of it, while exhausting, is indescribably thrilling every time. The show is brilliantly constructed. I grew up in Southern California, so forgive the bodysurfing reference, but it really is like riding a fantastic wave. The music beautifully propels you along toward the final scene where you give full expression to the pain of being on this earth. Pretty nifty job, isn't it?
What’s the most important reason Phantom is still a hit after 25 years on Broadway?
Who's to say what has sustained such unprecedented audience fervor for the show? I don't think anyone can put a finger on it. But it brilliantly tells a story that we all can identify with: the previously mentioned pain, longing to be loved, understood, valued. Universal themes writ large, dazzling stage-craft, soaring melody. I'm in awe of what the creative team accomplished.
Prediction: How long WILL Phantom run?
I really don't see it ending. It's still such a destination show for people coming to New York from all over the world.
Click here for more confessions from Broadway's longest running Phantoms!