Opera on the Avalon brings the timeless Andrew Lloyd Webber classic The Phantom of the Opera to the stage with a talented cast of locals and newcomers
It is perhaps the most timeless stage production of all time. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic hauntingly romantic musical The Phantom of the Opera is coming to the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s this November with direction from Donna Fletcher, choreography from Marie Steffan and the conductor of the 1988 Broadway original Jeffrey Huard.
Starring Stratford’s Roger Honeywell in the titular role of The Phantom, with Teresa Tucci as Christine, Newfoundland’s own Jeff Sullivan as Raoul and an eclectic support cast that includes Noelle Slaney, Jacques Arsenault, Peter Halley, Keith Power, John Fanning and Kelly-Ann Evans, Opera on the Avalon’s world class cast and crew will attempt to put their own dynamic touch on a production that transcends theatre.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be fantastic,” shared Roger Honeywell, who returns to Opera on the Avalon following his work on the WWI themed production Ours.
For Jeff Sullivan, who is performing here at home in Newfoundland for the first time in eight years, the role of Raoul provides an opportunity to share the knowledge and experience he’s accrued.
“I mean for me to be able to come back and for it to be the first time that I perform in Newfoundland in eight years … to come back and share a piece of that with the island that I love so much is a great honour,” says Sullivan.
“It’s a very human story, and I think that’s why it has stood the test of time. A lot of people can relate to the grandeur of the show and being able to be lost in the show and the opera, but it is musical theater at the same time,” he adds.
And while adding his own unique touches to a timeless character is alluring, Sullivan’s motives for his return to The Rock run much deeper.
“My biggest reason for coming home to perform again is to pay a tribute to my mother who just passed away in April,” he says. “This show is in dedication to all the energy and faith she invested in my dream so that I could be on the stage. She quite literally chased me around the world to see me perform. Now it’s my turn to finally come home to perform especially for her!”
Becoming the phantom
Having the distinction of never seeing the production, the role of The Phantom provides Honeywell a fantastic opportunity to make an iconic character his own.
“It’s interesting because I come to it with completely fresh eyes,” Honeywell shares. “I don’t have any history with it other than hearing it peripherally. But I can relate to the story just simply by reading it. The idea of the outsider and searching for redemption through love.’’
Sullivan’s casting was serendipitous in that he only first saw the Broadway production this year, months before receiving the offer to portray Raoul, childhood sweetheart of Christine Daaé.
“It was almost like it was meant to be,” Sullivan jokes, sharing his excitement to reconnect with familiar names here at home. “I’m really excited to come home and play, to come back to some old stomping grounds. To be able to dabble back into the Newfoundland’s art and culture epicenter of all these different people, people who are a part of the culture of musical knowledge in Newfoundland, is so important to me.”
Honeywell, who has tackled meaty, demanding roles across various productions the world over for decades, shares his excitement to dive in to the challenge of such a layered and complex character as The Phantom. “You can’t help but express yourself if you’re being true to the music because Andrew Lloyd Webber is giving you such a phenomenal structure,” he says. “To sing it correctly means that you’re feeling emotion correctly. You’re given a great palette from the composer to begin with … I think it’s a great role and it encompasses a wide variety and scope of emotion and feeling and passion that I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
Sullivan stops to reflect on his travels, plying his trade for years since leaving his island home, gaining exposure and experience ahead of his return for The Phantom. “I think that at the end of the day what you need to remember is that no one can take away your own individuality and I think we all bring something very unique to the table as artists coming from Newfoundland,” he shares thoughtfully.
“Our folk culture, we’re all influenced through artistic heritage. That’s what informs all of us through Newfoundland. We’re all storytellers. And to be able to have that as my background was actually one of the most informative things going into the musicals abroad. I learned the most by being able to look within and what I already had as an upbringing and then to be able to go away and share that and educate myself on what I already had within me was one of the biggest things I think that informs me along my process.”
“You do go away to learn the technicalities but it’s almost like I was already set up for success because of the culture that I came from. And I think that’s empowering to anybody who lives in Newfoundland and any kid that’s growing up. I think that’s the message that I would always want to tell them is that you are set up with such a beautiful set of artistic expression living in Newfoundland.”
Tickets from Nov 7-10 in St. John’s available at the box office, by phone and online at artsandculturecentre.com. For more on the company visit operaontheavalon.com.