Unmasked applause: New Broadway 'Phantom' tour brings chills and song enchantment

2014-01-02T00:00:00Z Unmasked applause: New Broadway 'Phantom' tour brings chills and song enchantmentBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Actor Ben Jacoby, who is cast as the hero Raoul in the new Broadway tour of "The Phantom of the Opera," admits he is still striking the needed balance between romance, thrills and chills required for Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical.

"In one of the climatic scenes, my character is on the rooftop with Christine and everything is happening around them ranging from fear to love and suddenly, there's a moment that must happen for the audience to also share this same experience," said Jacoby last month, taking a break from his holiday shopping at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, while on tour with the production.

Broadway In Chicago, Cameron Mackintosh and Webber's Really Useful Group are the backers behind this new tour, featuring newly reinvented staging and what's billed as stunning scenic design and still ranked as "the most successful musical of all-time."

Featuring a cast and orchestra of 52, making this one of the largest productions on tour in North America, "The Phantom of the Opera" plays Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago Jan. 9 to March 2.

Mark Campbell portrays the man behind the mask, while Julia Udine stars as Christine Daaé. Other leads include Jacquelynne Fontaine as Carlotta Giudicelli, Craig Bennett as Monsieur Firmin, Edward Staudenmayer as Monsieur André, Linda Balgord as Madame Giry, Frank Viveros as Ubaldo Piangi and Hannah Florence as Meg Giry.

Last spring, Jacoby and Balgord had already primed their pipes for the music of Webber when they joined the ensemble of "Now and Forever: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber" the revue at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, Ill.

"Everyone knows and loves these songs and the stories that are connected with all of the characters from Webber's work," Jacoby said.

"I was also at Marriott Theatre cast in their spring production of 'South Pacific' and that was when the auditions and casting process for the 'Phantom' tour began right up until June with more call backs."

Jacoby, who grew up in New York and New Jersey, now calls Chicago home after spending his college years in Ohio and graduate school in California.

His counter character on stage for this tour is the Phantom, played by Campbell, who has traveled the country in the National Tours of "Mamma Mia!" and "Guys & Dolls."

Webber is especially excited about this new tour.

"It's wonderful to have a new production of 'Phantom' touring America in the same year that the show celebrates 25 years on Broadway," Webber said when the tour launched this fall.

"Director Laurence Connor has done an amazing job and this production has received huge critical acclaim in the UK."

The Ensemble includes Adam Bashian, Nick Cartell, Dan Debenport, Amy Decker, Mark Emerson, Cooper Grodin, Michael Thomas Holmes, Celia Hottenstein, Christopher Howard, Merritt David Janes, Amy Justman, Edward Juvier, Dustin Layton, Luke Lazzaro, Jay Lusteck, Katie McCreary, Grace Morgan, Christy Morton, Quinto Ott, Eric Ruiz and Marguerite Willbanks. The Corps de Ballet includes Morgan Cowling, Anjelica Bette Fellini, Ramona Kelley, Abigail Mentzer, Lily Rose Peck, Tara Sweeney and Micki Weiner.

This new production is directed by Laurence Connor, who is now also working on the 25th Anniversary production of "Les Misérables" coming to Broadway in March 2014, with "Phantom's" choreography courtesy of Scott Ambler, set design by Paul Brown, Tony Award-winning original costume design by Maria Björnson, lighting design by Tony Award winner Paule Constable, sound design by Mick Potter and musical supervision by John Rigby.

There are currently five productions of "Phantom" around the world: the flagship London production (26 Years and counting), New York (25 years and counting), Budapest (Hungary), Kyoto (Japan, also celebrating 25 years and counting) and Seoul (Korea).

Since its debut,"The Phantom of the Opera" has grossed more than $5.6 billion worldwide, with over 65,000 performances that have been seen by 130 million people in 29 countries and 150 cities in 13 languages. The show has won more than 70 major theater awards.

This new touring production is the first to tour the U.S. in three years. There have been three previous U.S. National Tours that grossed more than $1.5 billion in combined box office sales and played 216 engagements in 77 cities for an unprecedented total of 36 years and over 14,500 performances to 31 million people.

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