Gerónimo Rauch, who is currently starring as The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, chats to London Theatre Direct’s Andrew Tomlins about how it feels to be playing one of his dream roles, the biggest challenges of playing an iconic role and how starring as The Phantom compares to playing Jean Valjean.
The Phantom of the Opera, which first opened in 1986 starring Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, has won 70 major theatre awards, including seven Tonys on Broadway and three Olivier Awards in the West End. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical has grossed over £3.2 billion worldwide and been seen in 151 cities in 30 countries and played to over 130 million people.
Gerónimo joined The Phantom of the Opera
at Her Majesty’s Theatre
last September, following an almost three-year run playing Jean Valjean in Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre having previously played the part in the Spanish version Los Misérables (Madrid and Barcelona).
You’ve been starring as The Phantom for a few months now. How has the experience been so far?
It´s a fantastic role and the story is the ultimate tragic love story. It is intense, passionate and a total joy to play the role.
When was the first time you saw the show? Did you know you wanted to play the role straight away?
I saw the show on Broadway in 2000. I loved the role but at that age my singing voice couldn't reach the low notes that the Phantom needs so I didn't dream of playing it. It wasn’t until I saw it for the second time in London that I said “this is another dream role for me!”
Why do you think The Phantom is a role so many actors dream of playing?
It is a very challenging role. There is no way to play it with 50% of your energy. You need to be there in the zone to really nail it and that is the hard thing. It also allows you to play every night and let your feelings come out.
Phantom opened in the West End in 1986, what do you think is the secret to its success?
It´s a very tragic love story with a very good book, perfect direction and set and incredibly beautiful music.
What are the cast like to work with? What is the atmosphere like backstage?
The cast are fantastic and the building has a very nice energy to it. I don´t really see my cast mates during the show but there is always Saturday night to have a beer and catch up!
How do you keep your performance fresh each night?
I just go on stage and play it! Olivia Brereton and Harriet Jones (who are currently sharing the role of Christine) are very talented and help to keep my performance fresh. They also demand the best of me each time I perform with them.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score is so iconic. Do you have a favourite number to perform each night?
Music of the Night is the biggest challenge that I have because it is a song that demands 100% of your focus. If you drop the energy, you lose the magic. The moment that I enjoy the most is Point of No Return. It has tango and passion and reminds me of where I come from.
Most recently you starred as Jean Valjean in the West End production of Les Misérables? What was the whole experience like?
Les Misérables changed my life in many ways and gave me the opportunity to grow as a performer and as an artist. Les Mis gave me my first professional job in Argentina then my big opportunity as Valjean in Spain and after that the magical chance to come to the UK. Being there at the Queens Theatre performing Valjean is a dream that came true. It has been a very long journey but I´m finally here!
Many actors have played both roles. How does playing The Phantom compare to playing Jean Valjean?
Even though many performers played both roles I think they are opposite roles. In my point of view Valjean has more things in common with myself but the Phantom is a total stranger to me and that´s what I enjoy every night. Creating a Don Juan, a lover and a murderer!
Are there any other roles you have your eye on and would like to play one day?
Judas, Jekyll and Hyde, and many more. But I have the privilege to say that I performed 3 of my aimed roles and that is fantastic.
What is it like having so much support behind you from theatre fans?
I´m thankful and I try to give them as much time as I can. Part of our job is to take the audience on a journey and forget about their lives for a few hours. Every night I thank the audience at the curtain call. We are blessed to have this job.
Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins
The Phantom of the Opera is currently booking at Her Majesty’s Theatre until 25th October 2014.
Image: Geronimo Rauch and Sofia Escobar - Photograph: Johan Persson © Cameron Mackintosh Ltd