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, Mark Jacoby, who gave 820 performances in the show's title role beginning in 1991, recalls being graded by a fan and the irresistible demands of the role.
Choose three adjectives that best describe the Phantom.
Tortured, passionate, pathetic.
How did you pass the time during the long makeup process of becoming the Phantom?
Well, mostly listening to Thelma Pollard, the makeup artist, but other than that, reading. However, it was unfortunately during my Phantom days that I started needing reading glasses, which presented quite a problem since I couldn't wear them while being beautified. My solution: holding a large magnifying glass. (I have photos of this rather bizarre specter.)
What is your favorite moment in the show, and why?
As a member of the audience, it's a tie between the "floating, falling, sweet intoxication..." section of "Music of the Night" and the entirety of "All I Ask of You." Never was a love duet more brilliantly conceived, scored, lighted, and staged. As the actor playing the Phantom, the curtain call. ("...whew, got through another one...")
What is the craziest thing that ever happened during a performance?
In the extremely intense final lair scene, the actor playing Raoul (someone named Hugh Panaro) came on with his fly quite noticeably down. (There was even some shirttail protruding therefrom.) In the best spirit of colleagueship, I found a moment to turn up stage to him and signal by pointing quite demonstratively to my crotch. Suffice it to say that Hugh misinterpreted this well-intentioned gesture. Or did he....?
True or false: Raoul is a wimp. Discuss.
I never thought so before the Hugh Panaro open-fly incident.
When did you last sing "Music of the Night"?
This morning in the shower, but I left out the difficult passages so it was a VERY short version.
What's the best gift a Phantom fan ever gave you?
The best was a gold Gucci wristwatch, but the most memorable was a series of report cards giving letter grades for each scene of my performances. (At first I got straight A's, but as I fell out of favor with this particular phan, my GPA fell precipitously.)
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?
Much is made of the relatively short time the Phantom spends on stage, but the role is a killer. The men who have played it know that in their careers there will never be more asked of them—physically, vocally, emotionally. So I guess it's the challenge that's so alluring. That and the mystique of the role—you can almost feel the audience move to the edge of their seats when the Phantom begins "Music of the Night."
What's the most important reason Phantom is still a hit after 25 years on Broadway?
Obviously the artistic achievement of The Phantom of the Opera is unsurpassed. Every element of the production is monumental and perfectly executed. So I think, first, it's the exceptional quality of the work and, second, the subject matter: a magnificent love story that incorporates aspects of the paranormal. Love and other-worldliness: this pairing seems to hold a special intrigue for many, many people, whether it's vampires on screen or that little skit running up at the Gershwin right now.
Prediction: How long WILL Phantom run?
Why should it ever close? New York City is theater's capital, and The Phantom of the Opera is its chief executive—and there are no term limits.
Click here for more confessions from Broadway's longest running Phantoms!