WALLINGFORD — “The Phantom of the Opera” opens next week at the Oakdale Theatre, and actor Derrick Davis is returning to a role he’s played before: the Phantom himself.
Davis recently spoke with the “On the Record: Music” podcast about producer Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical, featuring newly reinvented staging and scenic design.
Davis has a unique connection to the show and his role.
“It was actually, believe it or not, the first show my parents took me to see as a kid,” he said. “It made me realize that I wanted to be a stage performer. To be able to come full circle and play the role that inspired me to become an actor is kind of a dream come true.”
Davis is actually reviving his role as the Phantom, which he played in the touring company from 2016-2017.
“I find so many similarities between myself and the character of the Phantom,” he said, and through playing him can explore “the emotions that we as humans try to push down.”
“I love to be able to play those (emotions),” he said, “because I can feel the audience, in the moment, in the theater, in the dark, experiencing a cathartic moment through watching the character.”
Of course, there also are things he doesn’t love about the Phantom.
“It’s just a great deal of emotional and physical stamina that’s required to play him eight times a week, and do it not only convincingly but movingly,” he said.
“Phantom” is the longest-running show in Broadway history. The new production has “technological advancements you’ll see and feel immediately,” Davis said.
Davis said that director Laurence Connor “wanted to dive deeper into the humanity of the characters and exemplify those in a greater detail, and let the music be as beautiful as it always has been.”
“He wanted to push the envelope of the interpersonal relationships between the characters,” he added, “and I think you’ll find that to be absolutely moving in this production.”
Davis praised the performance of Eva Tavares, who plays the female lead role, Christine Daaé.
“There is such a strength that’s shown in her character,” he said. “The arc of her story, her journey, is just so beautifully portrayed, and I think when they watch Eva (Tavares) play the role of Christine, they’re going to see a stronger, more vibrant and a more leading Christine in this production.”
Davis grew up on Long Island, the son of Panamanian immigrants, and started musical theater in high school. He studied opera at LIU Post and earned a bachelor’s degree in vocal music performance.
He’s performed in a number of shows, including “Carousel,” “The Lion King” and “Dreamgirls.”
He created the role of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Douglas Tappin’s “I Dream,” and his concert career includes sold-out performances.
“And it all lead me back to playing the Phantom,” he said.
“The Phantom of the Opera” runs May 8-12, with evening and matinee shows, at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre, 95 S. Turnpike Road.
To purchase tickets, visit www.oakdale.com or the Oakdale box office. Tickets start at $45.
For more information on the production and a video sneak peek, visit www.ThePhantomOfTheOpera.com/ustour/.
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