‘PHANTOM’ TOURING CAST EXITS THE STAGE
Longtime ‘Phantom of the Opera’ touring company members face the final curtain.
After the chandelier drops on the Halloween night performance of “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Pantages Theatre, the show’s cast members will be looking for their next gig after years, and in at least one case, decades, of job security with the venerable musical.
“Does The Times have any openings?” asks Tim Martin Gleason, who has been with “Phantom” on tour, on Broadway and in Las Vegas since 2001 as a member of the ensemble, the romantic interest Raoul and, for the last 16 months, as the tortured, masked Phantom.
The Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe musical based on the Gaston Leroux classic is still going strong on Broadway in its 23rd year. But its producers say the national tour is coming to an end.
“Phantom” has been on the road since 1989, when it opened with the original Broadway lead actor, Michael Crawford, at the Ahmanson. The first national tour, dubbed the Christine Company, played L.A. and San Francisco for 10 years. The second national tour, which producers called the Raoul Tour, ran for 81⁄ years in major cities. The current tour, known as the Music Box Company, will have played some 7,284 performances over 18 years.
Trista Moldovan, 30, has played Christine, the object of the Phantom and Raoul’s affection, for the past 21⁄ years with only a brief time off from the tour to do a production of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.
She was 12 when she first saw “Phantom,” on tour in Cleveland. “I fell in love with the Phantom and musical theater,” she says. “What drew me in was purely the spectacle and the music. What draws me in now is the love story. People go back time and time again because it’s very endearing to root for the underdog.”
Over the years, she played opposite three Phantoms and several understudies.
“Tim is very volatile but sexy at the same time,” she says. “I love working off that energy. I still feel like I have been beaten up by a baseball bat every night, but playing to a new city every month you’re playing to a different audience. Not only does this show hold a very special place in my heart, this national tour holds a very special place in my heart because never in a million years [did] I think I would be part of it.”
Unlike Moldovan, Gleason was not impressed when he saw “Phantom” on Broadway when he was 18. “I had sung when I was a kid and I was doing plays in high school so I kind of liked musicals, but I was bored with ‘Phantom.’ ’’
But that all changed when he turned 25. He was part of corporate America — he’d had stints at Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Pioneer Electronics and as an actuary/accountant at a consulting firm — and at that point was miserable. “So I started to think, maybe I should do some theater again,” Gleason says. “So I started doing community theater at night and thought maybe this is what I should be doing [for a living]. I saw ‘ Phantom’ again and it really hit me how great it was.”
He began in the “Phantom” tour in December 2001 and within two months was playing Raoul and understudying the Phantom. He did the tour for three years, went on Broadway as the rival for a year and then opened the Las Vegas production as the title character. He played the Phantom as an understudy some 150 times and in May 2009 took over full time as the Phantom on tour.
THE PHANTOM:Joan Marcus
Tim Martin Gleason has played various roles since 2001.