The Phantom will haunt Proctors Theater over the next week.
Quentin Oliver Lee, the man behind the mask, stepped into the role in 2017 and will be performing his last show as Phantom in Schenectady.
“It’s probably one of the most iconic roles and one of the most exciting Broadway shows and I’m thrilled to be a part of this legacy,” Lee said.
“The Phantom of the Opera,” is the longest running show on Broadway and its popularity doesn’t seem to have wavered over the years. Taking on the lead was intimidating at first for Lee, not only because of how loved the show is but because of the score’s vocal intensity.
“Vocally, it can be tough and I think the most challenging part about it is trying to deliver an incredible performance eight [times] a week, but that’s what makes it fun. Keeping it fresh and keeping yourself healthy so that everyone gets a fantastic show.”
The Phantom is a complex character. As an outcast, he haunts the Opera de Paris and acts at first as a tutor for Christina Daae. Actors like Michael Crawford remain well known for their performances as “Phantom,” but Lee has a different take on the character. He humanizes Phantom and tries to make the audience see another side of him.
“[People] think that the Phantom is going to be a mean and terrible person and all of a sudden, at the end [they’re] like ‘I mean, I know he killed people, but I really liked him,’” Lee said. At well over 6’ tall, he readily admits that he’s probably taller than most other actors who play the Phantom.
While he’s performed the show so many times over the last year and a half, he said he never tires of it.
“There’s something new that you can find in it every night and that’s one of the other exciting things for me as an actor. I’ve done it now 500-plus times and there’s still musical bits that are new to me or acting moments that are fresh and exciting,” Lee said.
“The Phantom of the Opera” holds a special place in Proctors’ history. When it first came to the theater back in 2006, it was the first Broadway show to run for an entire month.
“‘Phantom’ was a monumental change for this theater and for downtown and for the Capital Region,” Philip Morris, Proctors’ CEO, told the Gazette in 2014. That was when the production returned to Schenectady, looking quite different.
The new version, which was produced by Cameron Mackintosh, featured different scene designs, choreography and special effects.
“In 1987, the original show was created and designed. There’s a lot of technology that’s used to make the show feel more like a movie. You’re not really waiting for any scene changes,” said Mitchell Hodges, the stage manager.
It makes audience members feel closer to the action, as though they’re right there with the actors. The chandelier scene especially gives the audience that sense.
“So our chandelier and the way that it falls is very unique to us. Our chandelier freefalls. In other productions, you see it swing onto the stage. This is the only chandelier that you’ll be able to see [that free falls],” Hodges said.
Coming in around 2,500 pounds, the chandelier is designed to fall from the ceiling to just about 15 feet above the audience.
“Just enough to make people gasp,” Hodges said.
The choreography was redesigned by Scott Ambler and Hodges said is a fresh spin on the original.
“The music and the costumes are the only things that we’ve kept,” Hodges said. That includes the Phantom’s embellished midnight black cape and Christine’s gowns, designed by Tony Award-winning Maria Björnson.
For people who have seen “Phantom” before, Hodges said the show has changed so much that they should leave their expectations of it behind.
“The fans I’ve seen [range] from 80 to eight. There’s something for everybody in it,” Lee said, “It just brings joy to people”
“The Phantom of the Opera,” runs until May 5 at Proctors. Tickets start at $25. For more information visit proctors.org.