(L-R) Musical supervisor Guy Simpson, Dondi Ong as Piangi, Claire Lyon as Christine, Anthony Downing as Raoul, and Jonathan Roxmouth as Phantom at the press lunch at Diamond Hotel last week

Phantom in Manila: Meet the Cast

When Concertus Manila and Lunchbox Productions announced that they’re bringing The Phantom of the Opera to Manila this year, my heart skipped a beat.

Broadway’s longest-running musical and West End’s finest, The Phantom of the Opera is one of those classics that don’t need extra hype to sell. From the moment Andrew Lloyd Webber produced it in 1986, it has set the global standard for musical productions. It reminds us of what good musicals are made of—a genuinely talented cast and ensemble, spectacular musical score, breathtaking set design and costumes, a compelling story, and the crew’s ability to cohesively put them all together onstage.

I met the principal cast last week, thanks to Spot.ph who assigned me to work on “10 Reasons to Watch Phantom in Manila.”

(L-R) Musical supervisor Guy Simpson, Dondi Ong as Piangi, Claire Lyon as Christine, Anthony Downing as Raoul, and Jonathan Roxmouth as Phantom at the press lunch at Diamond Hotel last week

It’s tempting to compare their upcoming performances with Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford or Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo, but one thing I’ve learned is that you should never expect a replica of the original performance. A true thespian is not a copycat performer—he/she brings her own flavor to the stage, even with material that’s been reused for decades.

Meet the cast of Phantom of the Opera, each promising to bring his/her own mark to the show while staying true to the essence of this award-winning musical.

Jonathan Roxmouth

Jonathan Roxmouth as Phantom

Theater background: Vince Fontaine/Teen Angel in Grease, W.A. Mozart in Rock Me, Amadeus, Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story, LunTha in The King & I, Gaston in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Munkustrap in Cats, Featured Performer in In Black and White, Danny Zuko in Grease, Flanders in Hats Off!, Various roles in Topsy Turvey, and Judas Iscariot in Jesus Christ Superstar.

Tidbits: This award-winning theater actor from Johannesburg, South Africa, has loved acting since he was a kid. Aside from performing all over the globe, he is also the TV host of a gameshow called LASHER and does various voice-over projects.

Q&A: I asked him if he’s visited any spots in Manila yet. “We went to Greenbelt the other night for supper,” Jonathan said. “We went to Château and it started to rain a little bit. Everyone goes, ‘Oh no, it’s raining.’ But it’s beautiful! I love the rain. Obviously not the floods, but what was lovely was we sat outside under the [rooftop]. It was like we were in the rain but we weren’t wet. Such a lovely vibe!”

Claire Lyon

Claire Lyon as Christine

Theater background: Ensemble of My Fair Lady; Ensemble of The Merry Widow, Madame Butterfly, Aida, La Traviata, Peter Grimes, Tosca, Carmen, and Bliss; Ida in Die Fledermaus; Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro; Anne Egerman and Mrs. Nordstrom in A Little Night Music; Christine in Love Never Dies (Phantom of the Opera Sequel).

Tidbits: A classically trained soprano, she graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Music Performance in 2007.

Q&A: I asked her what she plans to do in her spare time Manila. “I’m a mad shopper! I’m excited. I’m going to go nuts, I think,” she said about hitting the Greenbelt stores. “The tiangge markets—I wanna check them out as well.”

Anthony Downing

Anthony Downing as Raoul

Theater background: Gad and The Butler in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Latin dancer in Shall We Dance, Jake and ensemble in Show Boat.

Tidbits: He is a member of Cape Town’s 7-part acappella group, Perfect Score. Anthony has also appeared on TV and film.

Q&A: I told him that Filipino fans have been sending him messages on the Facebook page of Phantom of the Opera in Manila. I asked how he feels about gaining heartthrob status in Manila. “Wow, this the first time I’ve heard of it,” he said. “I’m flattered. Thank you. It makes life easier that people like me [laughs]. Hopefully when they see the show they’ll like me even more.”

Dondi Ong

Dondi Ong as Ubaldo Piangi/Ensemble

Theater background: Lucio San Pedro’s Bayan Isang Paa na Lamang, Boni Ilagan’s Pagsambang Bayan, Lucrecia Kasilag’s Why Flowers Bloom in May, Roldan/Asencio’s Song of Joseph, Floy Quintos’ Isang Panaginip na Fili and Puccini’s La Boheme.

Tidbits: The tenor graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree (major in Voice) from UP College of Music. He is the only Filipino cast for the international tour of Phantom.

Q&A: I asked how well he’s been bonding with the cast. “I’ve been pointing them towards the right direction on where to go for good food,” he said. “Right now it’s more of the CCP area because of our rehearsals, but I’ve been telling them where my favorite hangouts are.”

I didn’t meet the remaining support cast, but here’s a brief rundown, courtesy of Concertus Manila:

Thabiso Maseme

Thabiso Maseme as Pianggi
A tenor from South Africa, Thabiso performed his debut at The South African State Theatre playing Beppein in I Pagliaci. He’s also part of a group called the Gaabo-motho Tenors.

Andrea Creighton

Andrea Creighton as Carlotta
A young Artist of the Opéra National de Paris, France, Andrea has done principal roles for international companies, such as Opéra National de Paris, New Zealand Opera, Opéra de Bordeaux, Opéra de Tours, Opéra de Nantes, Iford Festival UK, Festival d’Aix en Provence, Atelier Lyrique de Tourcoing and the NZ International Festival of the Arts.

James Borthwick

James Borthwick as Monsieur Firmin
A graduate of University of Natal, James has an extensive career in TV, film, and theater. His award-winning theater performances include Peron in Evita, Molokov in Chess, Astrov in Uncle Vanya, and Corky in Life’s a Pitch.

Jason Ralph

Jason Ralph as Monsieur Andre
When he’s not busy playing award-winning productions such as Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, and The Rocky Horror Show, Jason does regular TV and film roles.

Rebecca Spencer

Rebecca Spencer as Madame Giry
She’s had principal roles in over 50 opera companies, national and regional tours, regional and Off-Broadway theaters across the United States and Canada. She’s one of the original Broadway cast members of Jekyll and Hyde and played Madame Giry for Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular.

Cat Lane

Cat Lane as Meg
This British performer and choreographer has played various roles such as Frenchy in Grease, Victoria in Cats, Wendy-Jo in Footloose, Silly Girl in Beauty and the Beast, and Doreen in Saturday Night Fever.

Watch The Phantom of the Opera from August 25 to October 14, 2012 at the CCP Main Theater, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Blvd. Pasay City. Tickets are available via Ticketworld. Ticket prices: P7,280, P6,032, P4,680, P3,640, P2,340, and P1,820. Dress code: formal for Gala Night, smart casual to semi-formal for all the other shows.

Students can avail of a discount exclusively for seats at Balcony 1 and 2 throughout the season. For the bundle promo, buy 4 tickets and get the 3rd and 4th for 40% off.

For more info, visit facebook.com/POTOManila and ticketworld.com.ph.

Photos by Zai Boongaling. Additional photos from Concertus Manila and Phantom of the Opera Manila