Here comes the phantom

For years, “The Phantom of the Opera” has brought us heartfelt tears and ghostly spooks. This popular musical has been revamped and remodeled numerous times, but the one thing that stays the same is the romance-filled storyline. “The Phantom of the Opera” has been on a North American tour for a year and recently hit South Florida. I had the pleasure of speaking with Ben Jacoby, who plays Raul in the musical. Here’s what he had to say about his experience.

How did you get started in musicals?

“It was kind of a slow process growing up. I always did it as a hobby, and I was in school plays. Both my parents did it; my dad is still an actor, so it’s kind of something I was always around growing up.”

Did you always want to perform in musicals?

“Definitely, but not exclusively. I also like to do television, film and all kinds of things, not necessarily musicals, like Shakespeare and other non-musicals.”

Can you tell me a little bit about your character?

“I play Raul; he’s the third killer of the love triangle. While the phantom is haunting the opera house and luring Christine, she meets up with a childhood friend, Raul, and they rekindle a romantic fling. So I’m sort of the phantom’s competition.”

How do you prepare to play Raul?

“Well, going into rehearsals, I try to go in knowing the material as well as I can. I leave a lot up to the director and our collaboration, of what and who Raul is and how he responds to different scenarios. The song is almost sung through entirely, and it’s difficult; you’re playing a scene, yet it’s all sung. Our director encourages us to treat the scene as a beautiful love duet. Yes, it’s a beautiful song, but the situation is perilous, so that’s how we try to rehearse.”

How do you warm up your voice?

“It’s a lot of singing and vocalizing. Belting out high notes immediately is not safe. A lot of singers have their own routine. I like drinking tea and steaming my voice. Anything to keep the sensation of moisture in the voice is good for me.”

How long have you been rehearsing for the performance?

“We started rehearsals in October of last year. We rehearsed five weeks in a theater and then taxed two more weeks in a theater, so seven weeks total.”

Do you think you and your character share similar personality traits?

“I think we have to. The best way to get an honest character is to put as much as yourself into it as you can. But on paper, I’d say, no, not really. He’s an aristocrat, arrogant, and he has a swagger about him that I don’t know that I necessarily identify with myself. But, like I said, I think it’s important to bring as much of yourself into the character as possible, so there’s a little of me in there.”

Do you ever get stage fright?

“No, not really. I get a little more alert. It changes. At this point, I’ve done a little more than 400 performances of it, so things change, and your approach to having nerves changes throughout. I don’t classify it as stage fright, but more of an alertness.”

What are some of your favorite musicals?

“I like the classics. I love ‘The Music Man,’ ‘Showboat,’ ‘Guys and Dolls’ — those are some of my favorites.”

Why do you think people should go see “The Phantom of the Opera”?

“I think what tends to bring people back over and over again is this beautiful story. The melodies are very romantic, and somehow it has managed to fit in a contemporary frame and yet still be honest to the time and place where the story takes place. This new production, technologically speaking, is a visual spectacle. And it’s a classic love story, and it speaks to everyone. The theme of wanting to be loved and not feeling like were enough to be loved is sort of universal.”

What do you want people to know about you?

“If Raul comes off as some arrogant guy, with a cheap swagger, I want people to know that that’s not really me.”

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