Chit Chat: Jonathan Roxmouth

2011-11-25 14:31

The Phantom of the Opera has just celebrated 25 years on London’s West End. Why does this production have such a lasting allure?
I don’t think there is a single answer to that. They caught lightning in a bottle due to the collaborative nature of writing musicals. The right team with the right material produced this breathtaking musical that no one saw coming.

You are Raoul, the hero, during the week and the Phantom on the Sunday performances. How difficult is it to make the transition?

It’s all a matter of separation. I had no idea how much work it was but, thankfully, I had a very patient team to deal with my many schizophrenic moments in scenes where I didn’t know whether to stand in Raoul’s spot or sing the Phantom’s lines.

What is a typical rehearsal day like when you have to prepare for two roles?
It is a surprisingly straightforward process. I always try to gym before rehearsals. From there, it is usually dancing in the morning, vocals during midday and scene work during the afternoon. The schedule is clear on
which character is needed, and I do gear shifts from room to room. Phew!

Is it a shock to find yourself performing what you have rehearsed, but from behind a mask and make-up that takes two hours to put on when you are the Phantom?
It can only help, quite frankly. That time in the chair is really nice to just settle down before the performance. The layering process is quite therapeutic, so I use it as one type of warm-upin a sense. As for the mask, it is the Phantom’s source of power. I find that I am less inhibited in trying different things when I wear it. It is
such a privilege to don that iconic mask.

Many actors are superstitious before performances. Do you have a ritual you perform before treading the boards?
Not any more. I have way too much to think about with this show. Superstition is a luxury.

You are considered the hottest property in musical theatre. How did you end up singing for
your supper?

That’s honestly the first time anyone has said that to me. I don’t quite know what to say. I started out by auditioning for the Barnyard Theatre’s production of Grease in 2005, two weeks before writing my matric exams. I got three distinctions as well as the role of Teen Angel in the show. My mother gave me a gap year to ‘get it out of my system’ before knuckling down to a criminal law degree. I’m still on that gap year.

Someone told me that you learned the guitar in record time for a Barnyard show early on in your career. Tell us about that?

I wouldn’t say I learned the guitar. I kind of got my way around the score of The Buddy Holly Story when I was cast as Buddy. There aren’t that many chords so, with enough practice, I faked my way through it.

Of all the shows you’ve been in, which have been your favourites and who have you enjoyed singing with the most?
Up until earlier this year, I would have said Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, but I reckon Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar overtook that role. In many ways, it was the discovery of a different side of myself.

You have achieved success so early in your career. What are the roles you’d like to
tackle next?

I would love to play Billy Bigelow in Carousel or even Harold Hill in The Music Man.

» The Phantom of the Opera runs at Artscape in Cape Town until January 15. It then moves to Joburg’s Montecasino from January 31. Book at Computicket


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