Fri, Jan 20, 2006 - Page 15 News List

A passion that still exists after 20 years of the `Phantom'

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite all the milestones The Phantom of the Opera has seen in two decades of performances, there is yet another which the production that opens at the National Theater tomorrow night will pass. Brad Little, who is playing the title character, will do so for the 2,000th time.

At eight performances a week, that is equivalent to more than four-and-a-half years on stage, not counting months between productions. And in addition to the hours spent in costume there are two or three more spent getting to the stage as a makeup artist applies layer after layer of latex to his face. Then an hour more taking them off. All told, Little has likely spent some 12,000 hours preparing for and playing the musical theater's most charismatic monster -- 500 days, or a solid year and a half of his life.

How does he keep it interesting?

"[Playing the Phantom] is the thing I love to do the most in the word. And that itself gives me the thrill and the motivation to do it," he told a press conference this past week.

"Having this wonderful cast and company to play opposite -- the energy we get from each other -- motivates me to do this every night."

The fact that the cast changes from performance to performance also helps keep the energy onstage fresh, Little said. Ana Marina and Marni Raab will alternate in the role of Christina.

"I bring something of myself to the role of Christina," Raab said.

Little mentioned the number of people at the press conference -- easily twice as many reporters, photographers and cameramen as crowd into other press events at the National Theater -- and said that being a part of the touring company for Phantom has a bigger benefit.

"To know that Phantom of the Opera, for most of the people in this world, is the first musical that they have ever seen and that this show introduces people to musical theater -- that's a very special thing to be a part of."

It's an equally special thing for those lucky enough to have tickets to one of the performances. All 63 shows between now and March 12 are sold out.

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