More than 140 million audience members and counting; 1,823 pounds of body fat burned by conductors; 281 candles; 230 costumes; 125 people directly involved in each performance; 70 major theater awards; 30 years on Broadway; and one of the greatest shows of all time. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera has taken hold over Broadway for the past three decades. When the Phantom, a deformed but brilliant composer who haunts the Paris Opera House, tutors and falls in love with soprano Christine Daaé, he demands that she be given the lead role in productions or the opera house will face his wrath. As the spellbinding show celebrates the major milestone, Ali Ewoldt, who plays Christine, shared why she thinks the spectacle has settled in the hearts of so many theater lovers.
“I fell in love with musical theater at a young age,” said Ewoldt, who grew up in the town of Pleasantville in Westchester County, NY. “Being so close to New York City, I always came in and saw shows. My aunt took me to my first musical, A Chorus Line, when I was 8. I saw Phantom when I was 10 and fell in love with it.”
Ewoldt, who received her Liberal Arts degree from Yale University, took dance class and voice lessons as a child before deciding in high school that she wanted to pursue musical theater. After her college graduation, she figured she’d give it a go.
“Dance was my first foray into this world. I studied classically, but Broadway musicals were always my love,” said Ewoldt, whose Broadway credits include Cosette in the first Broadway revival of Les Misérables and Maria in West Side Story. “To have a career doing regional shows wherever anyone would have me sing and act on stage…that was the dream.”
While Ewoldt currently plays Christine, many would be surprised to learn that she had auditioned for the role on and off for 10 years. When she received word that she had an offer to play the beautiful muse of the Phantom, she was in Chicago at a rehearsal for The King and I, in which she played Tuptim.
“My initial reaction was, ‘are you sure…really?’ It’s pretty surreal,” said the high soprano, who believes that she and her character have a lot in common, and that she sees a lot of herself in Christine. “That is part of why I fell in love with her…that first moment is so magical when she’s called upon to sing and fulfill her heart’s desire in the opera house in front of everybody.”
As for the setting, the Majestic Theatre is a beauty, and the stage has a multitude of moving parts and set pieces, like trap doors and candelabras that come up from the floor, all of which are original to the show, including that iconic chandelier.
“Ruthie Two is the name of our chandelier. The original, Ruthie One, is in London,” said Ewoldt of the replicated Paris Opera House chandelier, which has never been replaced in the production. “They really invested in technology so everything would stand the test of time. And the costumes are incredibly gorgeous. They’re a challenge to work in because they are so heavy, but putting them on really helps me get into the world of this Victorian era.”
While every number in the show is special, Ewoldt’s favorite song to sing is “Wishing,” a fan favorite and for good reason. Ewoldt appreciates this as the moment Christine comes into her own, processing all of the insanity she is going through and asking for help from her father.
“I love playing Christine because she has experienced tremendous loss in the loss of her father and she is trying to find her way in the world and gets wrapped up in these incredible love stories, but finds her footing in the end,” said Ewoldt on her character.
“I think it’s so special to be part of something that has such an incredibly rich history.”
It is that rich history of a girl and the man behind the mask that has lasted for three decades and, without question, many more to come.
“Phantom has become synonymous with Broadway all over the world and I think it is such a unique masterpiece,” said Ewoldt. “The new Broadway shows owe great credit to what Phantom is: timeless and touching. Our audiences are delighted to see it and we absolutely love doing it.”
For tickets and showtimes, visit www.thephantomoftheopera.com.