As a young girl growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia, Eva Tavares would dream of becoming a professional dancer. Her grandmother, however, had other ideas.
"I started taking baby ballet lessons at 2 and a half, and soon after that I started training as if I was going to become a professional dancer," said Tavares, who plays Christine in the national touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic musical, "Phantom of the Opera," coming to Proctors next Wednesday and running through May 5. "But my grandmother was a retired opera singer, and she used to tell me, 'I think you have a voice.' Of course, I didn't want to listen to my grandmother."
Tavares continued to dance into her teenage years before she heard another voice, her music director, telling her to switch careers.
"When I was 13 I went to a fine arts high school and while I was auditioning the music director told me, 'you should take singing lessons.' So I said, 'okay, that sounds like a good idea,' and I ended up singing with the Vancouver Children's Chorus. Things kind of snowballed after that."
Tavares ended up getting a degree in opera at the University of British Columbia, but continued to dance and choreograph everything from operas to burlesque shows. She was still a little untested as an actor, but not for long.
"I graduated from UBC in 2014 and immediately got a private acting coach," she said. "I kind of felt that acting was like dance. You tell a story through movements, and you also convey a lot of that through your face. You really invest yourself into it, whether it's acting or dancing."
By March of 2016, Tavares had landed the role of Maria in the Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre program and she hasn't stopped working since.
"Doing 'West Side Story' was a special experience for me," said Tavares. "The music and the story is just so amazing. I think it's the closest thing to a perfect musical, followed by closely by 'Sunday in the Park with George.' And 'Phantom' is definitely wonderful, too. Andrew Lloyd Webber is a genius."
"Phantom" is based on the classic 1909 novel by Gaston Leroux. The musical 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 at the Paris Opera house, the New York version was nominated for 10 Tony Awards and won seven, including Best Musical.
It opened on Broadway in January of 1988 with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman in the two lead roles, and continues today, making it the longest-running show in Broadway history.
"There are a lot of reasons why so many people continue to love this show," said Tavares. "The music is super catchy. I've done over 400 shows now and it still gets stuck in my head after I leave the building. The story is also a wonderful example of empathy, and showing kindness to another person who is shunned because of physical attributes. The 'Phantom' has been going strong for over 30 years, and it's both the story and the music that keeps people of multi generations coming back."
Joining Tavares on the Proctors' stage will be Quentin Oliver Lee as the man behind the mask, Jordan Craig as Raoul, Trista Moldovan as Carlotta and David Benoit as Monsieur Firmin. Lee has performed on Broadway in "Prince of Body," and Craig has performed on a regular basis at the Houston Grand Opera.
Following next Thursday's matinee performance, a Henry Schaffer TheatreTalks program will be held in the GE Theatre at 4 p.m. The talk, an exclusive behind-the-scenes discussion with members of the cast and crew, is free and open to all ticket holders.
'The Phantom of the Opera'
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Wednesday, April 24 and runs through May 5; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 1:30 and 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday (There will be no 6:30 p.m. performance on May 5)
HOW MUCH: $115-$25
MORE INFO: Visit www.proctors.org or call (518) 346-6204