In the concluding part of our interview with Las Vegas’s Phantom Anthony Crivello, we learn what was involved in bringing the show to Las Vegas… Read part one of the interview here
What’s your favorite part of this show?
The last 15 minutes… just before the final lair, starting at “The Point of No Return.” That’s the emotional apex of the entire evening for the character. The descent into the lair… the setup that goes into the final lair… for an actor, it’s really the heart of the show, being able to sink your teeth into the emotions that have built up throughout the evening – then, the catharsis that happens at that point for the character. I love the complexity of it. It is great fodder for an actor.
Have you ever had any scary moments as the Phantom?
The scary moments started when we were in rehearsal. I’ll say this, once we got on stage there’s two things I quickly found out- and you cannot portray “the Phantom” if either apply: One is, you cannot be claustrophobic … and the other one is you cannot be afraid of heights.
How involved were the creative team in putting the show together?
This production is a technical monster in a myriad of ways. We have had minor accidents. There have been times … opening night, when one of the problems is you’re mounting what is in essence a brand new production. And for that reason, we had virtually the entire creative team with us from the get go. They were here for the entire rehearsal process – we were fortunate that Hal Prince, Gillian Lynne and David Caddick, as well as Jack Gaughan our musical director, associate director Artie Masella and assistant choreographer Denny Berry… all to all assist Hal. Because unlike a multi-million dollar ‘road tour,’ it really was reconstructing how this NEW inception of an existing show was going to fit together. Hal and David, and Artie and Gillian, were on the phone to Andrew every other day saying “we have a problem here … we need to cut there,” in order to make it fit into the formula that is a ‘casino con tract’ show – that is, a show without an intermission and within a time frame that is required by casino management so they can get the patrons back out gambling – and that was all part of the negotiations prior to set up.
It was an interesting experience from that standpoint … of putting it all together. Because it was a ‘brand new production’ in essence and because of the fact that it had no ‘try-out’ on the road, and because there was so much new technology, it was a discovery process. And part of that discovery was how the mechanics of the show were going to work. Even though there were designs that were originally done by Maria Bjornson there were some adaptations that had to take place. So there were some – I’ll call them growing pains. There are still things that malfunction, like any ‘live’ production, but not quite to the extent that it did at the beginning.
Has anything ever gone wrong onstage?
Well… you know it may be a $250,000 mechanical boat but it still has a mind of its own. Literally one time the computer ‘brain’ of the boat decided it wasn’t going to function. The thing is you can’t run up to the local electronics store and say “OK, give me another one of these.” With this type of technology, it has to be manufactured. So that’s just one of the latest. Consequently, you have to operate for a few days without a boat so ‘the Phantom’ winds up escorting Christine into the liar with a leisurely walk through the fog. And even THAT becomes precarious because there’s trapdoors that are open and you have to know where they are! We literally have to rehearse how to walk into the lair. But that’s also not unlike any large spectacle, there’s always going to be a certain amount of … unpredictability and danger.
Do you get nervous before a performance?
Generally, no. The wonderful thing about theatre, especially because we had a wonderful long rehearsal period, is that although there are times, benchmark times when you might get a little bit nervous with the first performance or whatever, we’re very well rehearsed. Everyone’s very comfortable. A few mishaps just takes us back to the technique of relaxing and going with the flow. We feel safe in the environment, so generally the nerves die away… which is good because you’re able to play. And you really are. I’m a Method trained actor so I’m really looking for the opportunity to react and be ‘in the moment’ with the other actors … as well as entertain the audience.
What’s your dream role?
That’s a hard question to answer. I could say that there are times that I have contemplated what it would be like to play Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, or what would it be like to play Johnny Friendly in the stage version of On The Waterfront. I have an open invitation with the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre to do Shakespeare and their Artistic Director Barbara Gaines has said to me, “Tony, what role would you like to do?” I think ultimately though, the role that I am slowly trying to pursue is on the other side of the floodlights. I would like to have an opportunity to direct. I’d like to have an opportunity to create. I see myself moving in that direction… directing in theatre. Sometimes I dream about directing a film but I think ultimately my heart lies in the theatre. I have done my share of film and television and I’ve enjoyed it as well, but it’s not like the theatre to me.
What’s your favorite musical number?
From this show or from any show? Boy, that’s a tough question! Let me narrow it down to things that I have performed. I love, for instance, the score of Kismet, the song ‘Stranger in Paradise’ – that melodic line, Rogers and Hammerstein. I love the music of West Side Story. Leonard Bernstein I think is a genius. My experience with Les Miserables was nothing short of wonderful on all counts!! But from a performance standpoint I have to say, I would love to have the opportunity to do Evita again, even in concert. Che was a wonderful character and ‘Oh What A Circus’ and ‘The Money Kept Rolling In’ and ‘High Flying Adored’ – that was a very special time for me. I love doing comedy and farce as well.
There’s a lot of cynicism in that role [of Che]…
Yes there is, and there’s a great deal of humour in that character too. And I really loved that music. I’ve been so fortunate as far as the musicals and shows that I’ve been involved with. I must say Kiss of The Spiderwoman too… Kander and Ebb… it’s just great stuff. And I’ve worked with such wonderful people… I wish I had had an opportunity to work with Bob Fosse. I wish I had also had an opportunity to work with Michael Peters and even Michael Bennett … in some way, shape or form. But I have had such wonderful opportunities. I love the music of Jane Eyre too and Paul Gordon’s work… I think there’s a wonderful melodic content there as well. There’s so many other musicals… I could go to Guys and Dolls, I could go to Sweet Charity and the classics, there’s so many great numbers and shows.
And of course there are the Phantom numbers…
Absolutely. All that being said, I have to honestly say that “Point of No Return” is a wonderful number to sing. I imagine people would normally think that I would say “Music of the Night” but I think that there’s elements in “Point of No Return” that are just lovely.