For Julia Udine, a big believer in hard work, playing the female lead in a national touring production of an iconic Broadway musical is a lot like being a world-class athlete.
“To me, it’s important to stick with it and keep on working on your technique,” said Udine, who is playing Christine in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway Classic, “The Phantom of the Opera,” coming to Proctors for 16 shows over 12 days beginning next Wednesday and concluding with a Sunday matinee on June 8.
“We are like Olympic athletes in that they still train and work out all the time. For dancing and singing it’s the same. You have to make sure you’re doing things the best you can.”
Based on the classic novel by Gaston Leroux, “Phantom” had its world premiere in London in 1986, two years before its Broadway debut. The story of a masked figure who hides out in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House, “Phantom” was nominated for 10 Tony awards and won seven of them, including Best Musical.
It opened in New York in January of 1988 with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman in the two lead roles, and continues 26 years later, making it the longest-running play in Broadway history.
This particular touring production, produced by Cameron McIntosh, opened in November in Providence, R.I., and is being heralded as a “new” version of “Phantom.”
’The Phantom of the Opera’
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schen-
WHEN: Opens Wednesday and runs through June 8, performance times vary
HOW MUCH: $105-$25
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
“It’s one of the most successful shows ever, and it’s incredibly exciting to be a part of this new production, which really concentrates on the story and makes it real,” said Udine. “It’s still the timeless love story that everyone can relate to, people of all ages, and there’s still that absolutely beautiful and lush music.”
Sharing the stage with Udine are Cooper Grodin as the Phantom and Ben Jacoby as Raoul. Grodin is a native of New York City who went to the University of Wisconsin and the Manhattan School of Music. He has been in national tours of “Les Miserables” and “Zorro,” and has performed with the New York Philharmonic.
Jacoby is a 2009 graduate of Denison University in Ohio and earned his master’s from the University of California-Irvine. Back in his college days he was a regular at Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham, playing the title character in a 2008 production of “Phantom” there. Also at Mac-Haydn, Jacoby played Gaylord Ravenal in “Show Boat” in 2010 and the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” in 2009.
“Cooper is absolutely fantastic,” Udine said of Grodin. “The audience falls in love with him every night, and playing alongside Ben is great for me. To be involved in this production, it’s such a high quality, is a wonderful experience for me.”
Udine is a native of Voorhees, N.J., and saw “Phantom,” her first Broadway show, when she was just 10 years old.
“I saw the original Broadway production with my family when I was a young girl, and I really related to Christine,” she said. “I absolutely loved the show and everything about it; the music and the story.”
Now 20, Udine started singing and dancing around the house when she was 4.
“I think my mother gave me dancing lessons just to shut me up,” she said. “I was always walking around the house singing, and my older sister was a dancer so I started doing that, too. When I was 8 or 9, I did “Fiddler on the Roof” with one of the local community theaters and I just fell in love with the theater.”
After graduating from Eastern High School in south Jersey, Udine headed to Penn State to study music and theater. She didn’t stay long.
“I went for a semester, and the people were great, but I just felt like it wasn’t for me,” she said. “So I moved to New York — I was still 18 at the time — and I just started taking a few classes and auditioning at open calls. I did an off-Broadway show, signed with an agency and then this.”
She is contracted to do “Phantom” for one year. After that she’s not sure what the future holds, but you can bet she’ll keep busy.
“My contract is a little open-ended, so I could keep on doing this show, maybe, and I guess they’re looking for dates in 2015 and ’16,” she said. “But I’m not quite sure what to do. It’s nice to have a great job and such a great role, and it’s exciting to be traveling all over the country at my age, but I might want to do something different. I’ll have to see how I feel at the end of November.”
While Grodin sings the show’s signature song, “Music of the Night,” Udine has plenty of opportunity to show off her singing voice in the solo number, “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again,” and in duets with Jacoby such as “Why Have You Brought Us Here?” and “All I Ask of You.”
“ ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ is a joy to do over and over again each night,” said Udine. “The lyrics are so deep it’s truly an acting experience every time I do it. And singing with Ben is just so much fun. In the songs we do we’re making decisions and going through some terrifying emotions. We don’t get tired of doing those songs.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or email@example.com