The Phantom of The Opera returns to Her Majesty’s Theatre which has been its home since October 1986 and has been seen by over 140 million viewers worldwide. After an extended period of closure, the play has recently re-opened with new cast members and we caught up with new West End cast member Rhys Whitfield, who takes on the role of Raoul, after playing the same role for the UK tour.
To book tickets for The Phantom of The Opera go to https://lwtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/the-phantom-of-the-opera/
You are stepping into the role of Raoul and following in the footsteps of many great performers over the last 35 years. How have you individualised the role to suit your own style?
I suppose by trying not to shy away from the chances to bring humour and levity to the role. Raoul and Christine – in my mind at least – have something the Phantom and Christine never have, which is fun. I don’t think I’ll be accused of taking myself too seriously anytime soon, and I think there’s a fun, silly side to Raoul too.
Casting for Phantom of the Opera, London was announced at the end of April, following on from your success in the Phantom UK Tour in 2020. Has it been difficult to step back into Raoul’s shoes after so long without performing?
In some ways absolutely – the show stamina, the small everyday anxieties that come with putting on any scale of production, the change in lifestyle, all that. But I think the sense from the industry and the fans of excitement to get things back up and running was so overwhelming, it soon fell back into rhythm.
You have previously appeared in My Fair Lady and Jesus Christ Superstar. Have these experiences helped to prepare you for the scale of ‘Phantom of the Opera’?
I’m not sure many experiences could ever prepare you for the scale of Phantom! From those shows, seeing how our principal actors conducted themselves on and off stages was definitely the most useful thing coming into this production.
Do you have a favourite scene in the show?
It’s perhaps a cliché, but ‘All I Ask of You’ is probably my favourite moment. I think it’s the first time that Raoul takes a front foot in the narrative, the scene is really fun to play, and the song’s not bad too.
Can you share with us your route from drama school to taking on a leading role, in one of the most famous musicals in the world?
I was very fortunate to sign with a really wonderful agent in my third year, and with her I got a really lovely string of jobs working in ensembles, covering, and working as a standby for several years. We made a joint decision to really push for ‘leading man’ roles, and Phantom came along at precisely the right time. A combination of luck, timing and people being kind enough to give me a shot.
You trained at Guildford School of Acting. Do you have any advice for students wishing to pursue a career in Musical Theatre?
Find good teachers and jump headlong into the hard work of getting better. Also, try to retain humility – I’m very aware of the privileged (in many ways) position I currently find myself in, and I am aware of the many people who have helped me and of the luck I’ve experienced.
Do you have any special routines to help to keep your voice in tip top condition?
The two big ones are hydration and sleep but warming up gradually and sporadically about 2-3 hours before the show if possible – my voice takes a while to wake up I’ve found.
How have you celebrated finally being able to return to the stage, after such a prolonged period of ‘resting’?
By doing my nightly ritual of panicking about how I will do it again the next night.
Rhys Whitfield – Biography
Theatre Credits: The Phantom of The Opera – Raoul, My Fair Lady – Freddy Eynsford-Hill, Summer and Smoke, An Officer and a Gentleman, Million Dollar Quartet – Elvis Presley, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Commitments, Close to You.