The man in the mask

Actor has mastered the man behind Phantom mask

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 02/07/2014
Phantom
ROBERT CHARLES/ Fairfax NZ
PHANTOM: Actor Chris Crowe in the early stages of his transformation into the Phantom – a process that takes two hours of work by makeup artists Jacqui Stevenson and John Bannister

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This week the curtain will rise on the biggest show the New Plymouth Operatic Society has ever staged.

The Phantom of the Opera is one of Broadway's most revered shows and the New Plymouth season has already been extended by a week to meet the demand for tickets.

Only once before in the society's 62-year history has a production run through to a fourth week - the much lauded 1994 production of Les Miserables.

New Plymouth's $600,000 show, directed by Warren Bates, has a lead actor who has already mastered the man behind the mask.

The title character is played by Wellington man Chris Crowe, who first put the mask on in last year's The Phantom of the Opera show in the capital.

He told Fairfax Media last year that he had watched as many performances online as he could find to get his depiction of the tormented Phantom just right.

"This man is so iconic that you absolutely don't want to stuff it up."

The 36-year-old actor and singer has played some of the most demanding roles in musical theatre including Jesus in Godspell, Enjolras in Les Miserables, and John in Miss Saigon.

Crowe had hoped to play the Phantom since first realising he could hold a note.

"Every boy who can sing a tune wants to play the role," he said.

Joining him on stage will be the angel of music, 21-year-old Toni Gibson, who will play Christine.

Gibson has performed at Christmas in the Park, the Good Morning Show on TVNZ and last year released her debut album Echo in My Soul.

While new to musical theatre, Gibson will bring a wealth of experience to what is her dream role, New Plymouth Operatic president Kevin Landrigan said.

The audition process for the role of Christine attracted an incredible number of very talented people, , he said.

"It was a very competitive process."

The New Plymouth season, which has a crew of more than 200 people and runs until July 26, will include $28,000 worth of pyrotechnics, an $8000 Phantom mask and six tonnes of set, props and costumes worth $700,000.

The cost of building the set and designing and making the costumes is shared a musical theatre consortium which New Plymouth Operatic is a part of.

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