Phantom’s Cooper Grodin is keeping everything in perspective 

click to enlarge The Phantom of the Opera cast performs on a previous tour stop. (Matthew Murphy
  • The Phantom of the Opera cast performs on a previous tour stop. (Matthew Murphy

The beautiful soprano Christine becomes the object of a mysterious madman at the center of the show that helped establish Andrew Lloyd Weber as a household name. Based on Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel of the same name, The Phantom of the Opera made its stage debut in 1986, captivating audiences and critics alike with lavish sets, soulful melodies and dazzling special effects. The new production is directed by Laurence Connor, who also directed the 25th anniversary production of Les Misérables that is currently running on Broadway. With 52 performers and musicians, it is one of the largest productions on tour in North America.

Leroux’s novel tells the story of a late-19th century Paris opera house that is the site of strange and frightening events. The Phantom is responsible for various hijinks, from unexplained noises to falling set pieces. For Christine, who aspires to be a star, The Phantom is a teacher who encourages her musical gifts. Under his tutelage, she succeeds beyond her expectations. However, her mystery man is far from altruistic; her “angel of music” is actually a tortured and disfigured musical genius who lives in the bowels of the opera house and wants Christine to be his bride.

This tour features Cooper Grodin as The Phantom, who acknowledges that the iconic role has a rather large cape to fill.

“Being a native to NYC and growing up around Broadway shows, I always knew about The Phantom of the Opera,” Grodin said. “It was a classic that everyone was fond of and deeply respected.”

When the opportunity arose to play the iconic role under the supervision of producer Cameron Mackintosh, he couldn’t refuse. Mackintosh is a titan of musical theater, having produced the three longest-running musicals in history: Cats, Les Misérables and Phantom.

He was immediately drawn to The Phantom; depending on how he’s portrayed, he’s either a monster or a misguided, lovesick creature — and the fact that he is disfigured leaves the role open for cartoonish unambiguousness. To play the role as anything but campy requires restraint and sophistication. Grodin has both.

“The Phantom is a profoundly complex blend of hero — and some may say villain,” Grodin said. “What I get to do now is a once-in-a-lifetime role. I don’t think there is a more iconic role in theater, and to do it with this cast is a joy.”

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