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. Last in this fun series is the super-talented current star Hugh Panaro, who has given more than 1,900 performances, with no end in sight! Prepping for the gala anniversary performance, Panaro recalls the night he lost control of the Phantom’s underground gondola and offers a colorful prediction as to how long Phantom will continue to run.
Choose three adjectives that best describe the Phantom.
Only three, huh? OK, then, I'll say: exceptional, splintered and vulnerable.
How do you pass the time during the long makeup process of becoming the Phantom?
If I'm not working on music for concert gigs, I listen to Pandora on my iPhone, usually Freddie Mercury or Pavarotti. And if I need to laugh, Wanda Sykes!!!
What is your favorite moment in the show, and why?
In the Final Lair, when I sing to the Monkey. Sorry, I can't tell you why; that's between me and the Monkey.
What is the craziest thing that ever happened during a performance?
Recently, the radio-controlled boat went way off course during the title song. It ran into a candelabra, backed up, hit it again and stopped so abruptly that I almost fell off the front. At that point, I got Christine out of the boat and headed downstage as quickly as possible while the boat continued to randomly drive around the stage. Crazy and a little scary!
True or false: Raoul is a wimp. Discuss.
False. I loved playing Raoul, it's a great role. And until you've jumped from a bridge 15 feet above the stage into a trap door covered with fog, don't judge!
When did you last sing "Music of the Night"?
Umm, last night!
What's the best gift a Phantom phan gave you?
A ten thousand dollar donation to BC/EFA in my name. For real!
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?
The best thing about playing the Phantom is that I never get bored! I get to work with the legendary Hal Prince who inspires me more than I can say! I am constantly learning and discovering new things. I don't think in terms of how many performances I've done or how long I've played the role as long as I feel inspired.
What’s the most important reason Phantom is still a hit after 25 years on Broadway?
The audiences. They recognize that Phantom is one of a kind. People who loved the show when it opened are now bringing their children and grandchildren! It’s become a kind of generational rite of passage.
Prediction: How long WILL Phantom run?
I predict a life span somewhere between cockroaches and Cher.
Click here for more confessions from Broadway’s longest-running Phantoms!