Quantcast
Latest Stories

Unmasking the Phantom

By

Jonathan Roxmouth first fell in love with theater when he played “a very tall munchkin” in a nursery school production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Years later, in 2005, when the Barnyard Theatre Group held auditions for a production of “Grease” in South Africa, Jonathan knew he had to audition.

When he was cast as Vince Fontaine and the Teen Angel, his mother said, “You can have a gap year to get theater out of your system.”

It’s been seven years and Jonathan is still on that gap year, with his love for theater showing no signs of abating. Those seven years were well-spent—he has played numerous roles in productions in South Africa including Munkustrap in “CATS,” Danny Zuko in “Grease,” Gaston in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in “Rock Me Amadeus,” Lun Thua in “The King and I,” Buddy Holly in “The Buddy Holly Story,” Judas Iscariot in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and has toured New Zealand and Hong Kong as “Grease’s” Danny Zuko. These performances did not go unnoticed—he has received nominations and awards and was given the 2008 Fleur Du Cap for Best Performance in a Musical and the 2008 Naledi Award for Best Performance in a Musical for his role as Gaston.

Jonathan’s most recent award is for his portrayal of the mysterious Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera,” a role he has relished since October 2011. He was given the 2012 Fleur Du Cap for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.

It’s a performance audiences in Manila will soon get to enjoy as Jonathan travels with the rest of the cast and some members of the crew to the Philippines for a limited run of the production at the CCP.

Super spent time with Jonathan at the Teatro at Montecasino, the Johannesburg home of his Phantom, to talk about his role, Lea Salonga, and why he thinks you should watch “Phantom of the Opera.”

How’s the theater scene in South Africa?

Encouraging. We’ve got about four or five theaters just in Jo’burg and at any time there’s always a dance show, there’s always a play, there’s always indigenous work, there’s always a big-scale musical and across the road there’s a theater complex with a 400-seater and a 150-seater and what happens there are bonsai musicals. We had “Evita.” They’ll take what is usually huge and condense it to about 18 people and find the essence of the show. Very often, those are more impactful to audiences.

Was Phantom a dream role for you?

When I saw the original production here, actually in Pretoria, by the time the curtain came down, I knew on some level it was a role that, come hell or high water, I would play, no matter what. And it happened. Not only did I get the dream role, but in my opinion, compared to that production, I got the dream cast as well. This is the thing—and people don’t understand—we have a relatively young theater world here. In 2001, “CATS” came for the first time and really changed the musical theater scene because we hadn’t had big productions like that for a while. I’m very cognizant of the fact that when “Phantom” first came, our industry was still very young in terms of finding its feet and distinguishing the difference between musical theater performers and technicians who just knew how to sing. Seven years later, we have real triple threats. We don’t just have opera singers on stage, we have opera singers with acting instincts. We have dancers who can sing and can act. If you look at the corps de ballet that Meg heads up, each of those girls can sing and they can dance. I think it’s wonderful to be in a version of “Phantom” where we’re serving more than just the score. I think that’s very important for the show.

Everyone’s seen the show in one form or another, how do you deal with the pressure?

JONATHAN Roxmouth will soon be in Manila to play the Phantom.

“Phantom” has been around for 25 years and what can happen in long-running productions like London and Broadway, not that they are inferior productions, but you can see that they’ve been there for a while. The beauty about a new production like this is everything’s fresh. Our director Arthur Masella made it very certain that we were clear that the thing about the show, the way it’s written, it will always be a good show. What makes it a great show is the freshness that people who are doing the show for the first time can bring to it. We’ve got that down so well. We did a production in 2004. A small percentage of our cast know what it’s like to do the show. But for the majority, it’s the first time we’re doing it and I think that translates into our performance and our energy as well.

Why do you think “Phantom” is such a hit all over the world?

There’s something about the Phantom himself. There’s something about an audience coming in here, it’s usually 1,800 different people who usually don’t know each other and there is always somebody in that audience who relates to that whole thing of being alone or excluded or turned down. It rings a bell with them. It’s not just that the show is such a spectacle. Hammerstein had this quote, he said, “For a musical to be perfect, the orchestration should match the costumes.” And in this production, I certainly think that the audience isn’t just hearing something phenomenal, they’re seeing it as well. And when those two things come together, I think it’s inevitable that the audience is going to fall in love with it.

Is playing Phantom a big challenge for you?

It’s up there—Valjean and Phantom are the two pillars of the great musical roles. Everybody knows how the Phantom is meant to look, sound, act, behave, cry, smile, laugh. There’s such a pre-conception to the role. People either know Michael Crawford or Anthony Warlow or they know Ramin Karimloo. All these Phantoms of the past have stamped the role as their own that there isn’t much left to make your own. You really have to be creative to avoid being a copycat because you don’t want to do that either. So it’s a tightrope. Over and above that, you’ve got to whack out seven A flats every night, full volume, power, all that spiel, hide in angels and climb ladders. Everyone goes on about the vocal toll but I found the physical toll is a lot more than I thought it would be. It really takes a toll on your body. You are constantly being told “We need you to be a little more wild.” To maintain that madness eight times a week when you’re not is difficult. I go through about four liters of water throughout the show.

What did you base your version of the Phantom on?

I read the book. It’s very, very clear.

Singing-wise?

I prefer to do what’s good for me and what I can do eight times a week. It’s all very well if you can mimic Anthony Warlow but if you don’t have Anthony Warlow’s voice, it won’t sit on you properly. That was part of the six-week rehearsal we had—finding what is a more natural fit and what is sustainable in the long-term. People either remember that breathy Michael Crawford and Anthony Warlow comes along with that extraordinary sound.  If you don’t have that, there’s no point in trying to recreate that. Anthony (Downing, who plays Raoul) and I actually discussed this in rehearsals. You get so bogged down in listening to the original cast recording. He was listening to Steve Barton, I was listening to Michael Crawford. Eventually, we turned to each other and said, “It’s not working, I can’t do it.” You just have to trust your own sound. That’s not just true for the Phantom, it’s true for everybody. As a tenor, Piangi (Thabiso Masemene) has some of the hardest verses in the show. You wouldn’t think it because he makes it sound so easy and we hate him.

What do you love about “The Phantom of the Opera”?

I get to sit there for a long part of act one and I get to see the audience. What’s always amazing to me is these people, whether they’re old, young, blind, deaf, whatever, they all have the same reaction to the show and they go back to this place of make-believe. In real life, it’s difficult to find the fantasy and “Phantom” just hands this to you on a silver platter and people go with it. I don’t think there’s been one performance where the reaction isn’t what we know it to be. Sometimes it’s softer because they’re old but the fact is you stop seeing the differentiation between children and old people. They all become the same audience. I think it’s timeless.

It’s going to be your first time in the Philippines—what have you heard about the country?

Well, everybody in musical theater knows Lea Salonga. I don’t want to want to sound like one of those cliched, “Oh my god, she’s so amazing.” But she really does represent to a lot of people, male or female, that work ethic that just sets her apart. We’re talking about that girl, in that documentary, who asks that guy to sign the “Les Mis” poster and years later she’s playing Fantine in the 25th anniversary concert. There’s a story in there—that’s incredible.

Why should people in Manila watch “Phantom”?

I think you just answered your own question. Because it’s “Phantom.”  There is nothing and there will never be anything like “Phantom” ever again. It stands alone and I think it defined a generation of musical theater.

“The Phantom of the Opera” is brought to you by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, David Atkins Enterprises, Hi-Definition Radio Inc., and Concertus in association with The Really Useful Group. For tickets, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph.


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Jonathan Roxmouth , Manila , Phantom of the Opera



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  3. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  4. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  5. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  6. Sweet party for Andi Manzano
  7. Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  8. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  9. Entering the monkhood a rite of passage
  10. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  5. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. This is not just a farm
  8. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  9. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  10. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer

News

  • Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury
  • Luisita farmers storm DAR compound
  • Trillanes, Ejercito confident they are not in Napoles’ list
  • Easterlies to prevail in Luzon, Visayas
  • Lacson eyes P106-B ‘Yolanda’ rehab masterplan
  • Sports

  • Phelps having fun in his return to swimming
  • Murray breaks down in tears at Scottish ceremony
  • Mixers trim Aces; Painters repulse Bolts
  • Donaire junks Garcia as coach, taps father
  • ’Bye Ginebra: No heavy heart this time
  • Lifestyle

  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  • The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  • Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  • Entertainment

  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Return of ‘Ibong Adarna’
  • Practical Phytos plans his future
  • In love … with acting
  • Business

  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Cost-recovery provisions for affected gencos urged
  • This time, BIR goes after florists
  • Technology

  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Filipinos in Middle East urged to get clearance before returning
  • PH seeks ‘clearer assurance’ from US
  • China and rivals sign naval pact to ease maritime tensions
  • What Went Before: Manila bus hostage crisis
  • Obama arrives in Tokyo, first stop of 4-nation tour
    Marketplace