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"Phantom of the Opera" at Detroit Opera House, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2019

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Of all the iconic roles in musical theater, being "The Phantom of the Opera" may be the most intimidating.

For starters the piece is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's most successful productions, with seven Tony Awards for the original Broadway production. The Phantom himself, meanwhile, has been played by luminaries such as Michael Crawford (who won a Tony) and Colm Wilkinson, Gerard Butler in the 2004 movie and even Kiss's Paul Stanley.

Quentin Oliver of the current North American road company is a little over a year into his tenure as the Phantom. The southern California native comes to the role with a strong resume of his own in both opera and theater, including roles in "Porgy and Bess," "Carmen," "La Boheme" and more. He's made plenty of music of the night, but "Phantom," he says, is one of his favorites...

• Oliver says that "Phantom" has been a show that offers new revelations each time he performs it. "Andrew Lloyd Webber's music is really great. There's so much passion in it, so much to find every day. I discover new things in each passage. It's fun as a musician to discover new, intricate details, even after spending a lot of time with a role."

• Oliver, who turns 32 on Monday, Jan. 28, says that it's also rewarding to be among the ranks of the black actors who have played the Phantom. "I feel like I'm following in the footsteps of a lot of great men, both of color and not of color. Norm Lewis, the first African-American to do it on Broadway, is a great actor. Robert Guilliaume was the first to do it in Vegas and the first African-American to do it in general. There are so many actors of color who have done it..."

• The key to being convincing as the Phantom, according to Oliver, is "an honest, intensity and a magnetism. Hal Prince, the original director, said it takes a man at least six months before he can say that he is the Phantom; During that time you have to become more and more aware of the magnanimousness, the grandeur, the bigness. And there's the human element, because the Phantom is definitely a person -- just a very intense and misunderstood person. You can't necessary act that. It has to be something that's present when you walk on stage. So there's those innate qualities that come to it, and that can be helped along musically in the way you sing. It's very complex."

• With all of the illusions and special effects, Oliver acknowledges that "The Phantom..." is not without its bloopers at times. ”Oh yeah -- although a lot of what happens I cannot say. But we all have a good time. I think people a lot of times forget it's people on stage -- real people on stage. We do it every day. It's like a big family; We're with each other six days a week for 12 hours a day. If we're too serious all the time we'd go nuts, so there’s some fun things that happen, for sure."

• Oliver's first musical theater experience was a high school production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance," which prepared him for the duality of working both opera and musical theater. "Musicals are different in that it's very much more about the story, expressing the story through any and all means possible. Opera is beautiful like ballet in that the art form is the story, which is wonderful. But in musical theater I'm fortunate to know a fair amount about the given circumstances and apply all these musical ideas in service to the story. It's actually worked out really well; I'm using all that opera background, and I love theater and using that background to make this combined work."

"The Phantom of the Opera" runs Thursday, Jan. 24, through Feb. 3 at the Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway St. $35 and up. 313-872-1000 or broadwayindetroit.com.

Web Site: www.broadwayindetroit.com

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