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Phantom Las Vegas’s Raoul talks spectacle…  
In the first of our interviews with the stars of Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular, we talk to Andrew Ragone, who plays Raoul.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

There are a couple of people. Firstly I would have to say my voice teacher who guided me in this path. He was a Piangi in the original San Francisco Phantom – his name is Ravil Atlas. I was in high school and seeing the show was ultimately why I am standing here on the stage now. I remember as a young kid watching this amazing production where the music and the subject moved me so much. It is one of the shows that inspired me to be an actor. Another director, Diana Schuster, was the artistic director at American Musical Theatres in San Jose (I am from Northern California) which is a professional company which uses a few local people and she guided me in this business and really showed me what it takes to become a professional actor. Everyone has their own viewpoint of what the life of an actor would involve and I think I had a sense of what it was, but she instilled in me the work ethic and drive that would be needed to follow it through as a life long commitment.

What’s your favourite part of this show?

I have a few! For my character, the pinnacle is the moment in “All I Ask Of You”, so I am always guiding my performance to hit that right moment in order to make the whole show soar. The audience needs to feel, should she go with him, should she go with the Phantom and my job is to make the audience want her to go with Raoul even though it also tears at their hearts.

When in the show do you fall in love with Christine?

I play against different Christine’s in this show, including the understudies when they go on so I have to find a moment to fall in love with each of them. I focus on little characteristics they have, something they do which makes me fall in love with them. With one of the Christine’s recently I was about to tell her about this and I thought to myself that if I told her she would subconsciously emphasise that a little bit and then I would possibly lose that special moment as the choice that they are making is what makes it so special and interesting to me.

Have you ever had any scary moments in the show?

Yes! On my fourth show with all the creative staff watching who are involved in the production! Although brand new to the show I felt pretty comfortable after a couple of weeks of rehearsals. I came out of the dressing room scene and I tumble down the stairs. I literally land on my bum on the ground. And I can feel an audible gasp in the house from the audience. But it wasn’t scary, fortunately it is coming off a moment where I am just so excited to see her so I kind of played with it. The rest of that show was fine and all went well but I had a couple of friends in the audience and they told me afterwards “Oh my God, we were so worried”.

Do you get nervous before a performance?

I do. I think an actor has to have a sense of a nervous energy, it doesn’t need to be crazy nervous as I believe that is counter productive. When I get nervous I try to go to a checklist in my brain that I use to steer me out of it. I start focussing on a sub text or something that can really drive me so much into the character. Nerves affect me more if my family are out there as I become more aware of the audience. It’s better to be less conscious of the audience as it makes it easier to fall into the character. I have a very close relationship with Kristi (Kristi Holden, Christine) and we do a little dialoguing backstage to keep us solidly in our characters so that we don’t get aware of the audience or anyone out there that we need to please. Because it is our job to please the audience by being believable as the character.

Do you have a lucky ritual before a performance?

I have been asked this before! I don’t have anything that I desperately have to do. But there are a few things I do like to do. I do like to be here early. I am not one of those actors who can arrive at the theatre at the last minute. There are so many people around backstage I need some time to myself to zone in and gather the energy that you need to bring to that stage. I always like to listen to classical music before I go out.

What’s your dream role?

I’m in kind of a dream role for me! Especially since – as I said earlier – my voice teacher was in the original San Francisco company. But in the future the dream would be to create something on Broadway or in the West End. That is the next amazing step. To be able to create something which has your mark on it.

What’s your favourite musical number?

One show which made a huge impact on me was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Carousel. I was young and saw the tour in San Francisco and the overture and how that was directed stopped my breath. It made me realise that you can look at a show which has been around for many years and see it in a totally different way. The production had a dark, interesting energy to it. But there are a few special musical moments I could think of. I have experienced that with this show, I have had it with Les Miserables.

Where would you like to be in 5 years time?

I would love to be creating a role in New York. I would love to live there. I would also love to go to London. My room mate is a British New Yorker so I am very aware of the whole London scene although I have never been. But no matter where it is I would like to be doing something new and creative and working with great directors – that’s what we as actors find so exciting.

How would you spend your perfect day off?

Sleeping in. Going to the beach for the day with friends! I grew up in California so here in Nevada I miss that! Having a perfect dinner and then seeing a great show.

What kind of genre of music do you like?

The only things I don’t really love are hard core rap and hard core rock. But otherwise I like classical, pop, musical music, rock. I can enjoy many different genres,

What’s the best present you have ever received?

These are good life questions! But I can’t think of one example. A great present to me isn’t going to be the most expensive one but one that shows that someone really understands you and chooses something with a lot of care.

What’s your ideal holiday destination?

As you can tell I am a beach goer. I was just in Maui. When I go away I just need downtime and much as I like to travel to see things as I have travelled so much while in touring shows now I want to do something which is completely brainless! Just reading a book on the beach! I desperately want to go to Bora Bora. One day!

Do you have any phobias?

I do! I am afraid of heights. So I was a little afraid of the jump off the bridge at the end of the show when I first started just because it is quite high and it is a small square that is open. I could never jump out of a plane! Much as I think it would be so cool to let yourself be so free I can’t even watch someone else do it on the TV! And I have always been afraid of spiders. Even the tiniest ones!

Have you ever googled yourself?

I have of course. I don’t anymore because I am the kind of person who takes other peoples comments about you very personally. To me someone’s comments carry the same weight as a professional reviewer of a show. Good or bad. Because if you believe the good you have to believe the bad. It is counter productive. I guess the only time I would do it is after I have finished a job so it doesn’t influence my performance. But of course I care that people like me in the show and feel that I am doing a good job! It is just that it is not healthy for us to know all these things about ourselves!

Who is your biggest fan?

I am sure everyone says this but it would have to be my Mom and Dad. My father didn’t think I would ever make it as a professional actor and I think there was a point a few years ago when I won the San Francisco Critics Circle Award and was up against many big, known names and he then realised I could actually make it work out! I remember the look in his eyes and, although he never said it, I could see that he then realised I was not going to just do this for a couple of years and then be done with it. They are so encouraging.

Who would make you starstruck if you met them?

I usually find it is people who I looked up to in the generation above me when I was in my teens, rather than my peers. There’s an actress named Natalie Toro who was in Les Miserables, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, and she was in the 20th anniversary tour of Evita. I was in the Evita 25th anniversary tour and when she came to see the show I was introduced to her. But all I was just thinking about all the roles she had played and how many shows I had seen her in when I was younger! I became completely starstruck and came across like a child!

You can see Andrew as Raoul in Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular at the Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas NOW. Click here to book.

Posted on: 2nd February 2009

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