London’s Phantom, John Owen-Jones, has played The Phantom more times than any other West End actor. In part one of our interview, we found out what he thinks of the character, and in this second installment we put a few of YOUR questions to him…
Camille asked: What’s your most memorable performance of Phantom?
Camille, the most memorable performance of Phantom was when Bruce Willis was in the audience with his daughter. At Her Majesty’s we have a VIP room called the Royal Room, but that was booked up that night so he ended up coming into my dressing room in the interval, and we shared champagne – I couldn’t drink of course, because I was on! But it was very surreal, this seat I’m sitting on now is where Bruce Willis sat and we were chatting about his career and my career, in the interval of the show. That was one of those moments – you would never expect someone like that to be sat in your dressing room.
‘Angel of Music’ asked: Why does the Phantom pick up Christine when she faints in the London production, in the US production she faints on the floor. Is it very hard picking her up every night?
Hmm, your question is one of practicality. The Phantom picks Christine up in London because that’s how it has always been. In New York and I think in other areas of the world there are health and safety restrictions so the Phantom doesn’t catch Christine in case he does his back in! I’ve seen it on Broadway, loved the production, but it did strike me as being a bit odd that he didn’t catch her,when it was his fault that she fainted… Sometimes in the London production, if there’s something wrong with the boat for example and it’s not where it’s supposed to be we have to let Christine fall on the floor because there’s nowhere to put her otherwise. So it’s a question of practicality really.
Ann asked: What changes would you make to the character of the Phantom if you were directing the show?
I’d give him a little bit more to do in Act One! But I think when you look at the show, it’s perfectly arranged as a star vehicle because the Phantom is the only male character who gets solo numbers, he closes Act One, he closes Act Two, he has all the best entrances and all the best exits and everybody talks about him – even when he’s not on stage, everybody’s chattering about The Phantom, The Phantom, The Phantom – so you think it’s a much bigger role than it is. So ultimately I wouldn’t change anything. I think people don’t realise that even though the Phantom isn’t onstage a lot, he’s always doing something – changing costume, climbing up to sit in the Angel, hiding somewhere, going down through the trapdoor. It’s a very busy plot and there’s not much time to do anything else.
Paul asked: Have you ever felt like you might fall off the angel? (The point at which the Phantom appears above the stage after the song ‘All I Ask Of You.’)
Paul, I’ve never felt like I might fall off the angel because we’re harnessed in. We have a three-point harness belt on. It’s not really necessary I think because in the angel, the structure of it at the back that the audience don’t see is actually pretty big. The bit that does worry me every night is what we call the cross box -when Christine’s singing ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’, the Phantom is hiding in the cross box and then he emerges ghost-like from the shadows. I have to stand in there for the entire song and there’s a very famous story where I think Dave Willets or one of the early Phantoms, got into the cross box and it hadn’t been secured properly so the whole thing fell backwards with him in it. So I always get very wary when I get into that because you never know… basically you’re standing in a black box, like a coffin, and you’re in the graveyard, AND you’re holding a big stick with fireworks inside it!
Sophia asked: What’s the funniest think that’s ever happened to you onstage?
Well, onstage nothing really embarrassing has happened – apart from getting a nice big rip in my trousers, but that sort of thing is all par for the course really!
Sophie asked: If you weren’t an actor, what job would you like to be doing?
Sophie – if I was not an actor, I would be a chef. I do enjoy cooking and I really enjoy eating. Or maybe a restaurateur, that might be better because I wouldn’t actually have to cook and I could eat all the food. Or I’d be a rollercoaster designer because I love rollercoasters and that would be good because I could test them all out. So either eating a lot, or going on thrill rides, one of the two would suit me down to the ground – but not at the same time!