Can you tell us your name and role?
My name is Philip Griffiths and the roles I play in Phantom of the Opera are the Auctioneer at the very beginning, and then I have a very quick change into Monsieur Reyer, who was the Repetiteur at the Opera House where the Phantom is living.
How long have you been in the show?
I just had my 19th birthday so I’m now in my twentieth year.
Are you the longest-serving cast member?
Well, in that I have been here non-stop in that time yes I am, but Lynn Jezzard who is our Dance Captain, she was an original ballet girl but she’s left twice to have a baby… so I don’t know if you count that! But she’s back here and she’s now the resident choreographer.
So she’s not onstage?
No. So onstage I am the longest-running cast member, yes!
You must have seen some incredible developments and changes to Phantom since you started – what do you think the biggest change you’ve seen is?
When I joined in 1990, there was an awful lot of hype around the show. In those days from our point of view as singers and actors, it was really difficult, because there were so many artists wanting to be in the show we were on six-monthly contracts then. Every six months we would have to go through potential cast changes. Hal Prince (Director) was constantly coming over. He used to come over for the cast changes, specifically to cast change it himself, it was that new.
A few years ago Jeff Ferris, who was the original Associate Director on the show, retired. So they had to find somebody new to look after it, and Laurence Connor came in. He’s introduced a slightly more modern approach to it, just bringing it up to date really. It’s the same story and all that sort of thing, he just put a slightly different edge onto it. The show was a tried and tested veteran in 1986 when it opened on the 9th October. And as you can tell, it was a huge success – so you don’t interfere. You leave well alone. And it’s stood the test of time in that respect.
After all this time, how do you keep the role fresh?
Well I think keeping the role fresh and keeping your everyday energy in the show up goes back, I think, to my training. I’m a lot older than perhaps a lot of the people in the show so I came from a different era of being in the theatre. I trained as an opera singer in Manchester at the Royal Manchester College of Music, and we had this wonderful woman called Sheila Barlow who was our drama teacher. She used to say to us all the time, ‘it’s all very well you going on there and being a bit bored, but everybody out there is seeing it for the first time, and it is your duty as an actor and a singer to give those people the first impression again.’ So she said, ‘get used to it! If you’re going to be in a show that’s got so many performances, you have to give 150% all the time.’ And I think I came from that sort of stable. I can’t, to be quite honest, go on the stage and not give what I’m supposed to give. That’s what we’re paid to do. So I don’t find it difficult. And I play the auctioneer, so I’m right at the top of the show – I’m the first person to say a word and the first person they see really, so I have that added advantage, I think.
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