In the second part of our interview with London’s Christine, Sofia Escobar, she answers a selection of your fan questions – from auditions to costumes to ballet… Read part one of our interview with Sofia here – and get your tickets to see her in the London production of Phantom here.
Anna and Amanda: What is your favourite costume and which makes you feel most like Christine?
My favourite costume is actually the blue manager’s one. I love the colour and it works really well on the stage. I would love to take it home with me after the contract! (laughs) As for the one which makes me feel most like Christine, I think probably the first one – the Hannibal costume – where she is exactly the same as all the other girls, where she is in her world and the one she feels most comfortable in.
Caitlin: What was the audition and call back process for the show?
Well – it is quite a story! When I first auditioned, it was to understudy Christine, and I didn’t really expect to get anywhere with it. I was still at school, in my second year of studies at Guildhall, but I saw the advert in The Stage and decided to give it a try, for the experience really. And then I had about 8 or 9 recalls over the course of eight months after that, until they finally told me that I was the understudy for Christine, which was one of the happiest days of my life. Then I joined the Company and I was very very happy here, and after some time I moved on to play Maria [in West Side Story]. After that, when I re-auditioned for a principal part in Phantom, it was a much shorter process – it was about three auditions. It is quite nerve-wracking really and sometimes you feel so much pressure. When you really want something so badly, as was my case, and you know that you are competing with people who are equally, or sometimes more, talented…. It is quite hard but you just have to get on and do your very best. In our job you really do need to learn how to deal with that because sometimes you will get the role and sometimes you won’t . This time I was fortunate enough to get the role, but there are other times when I haven’t been lucky.
Imelda, Lena, Kimba and Becca: What tips would you give to anyone who wants to play Christine?
First of all I think people tend to focus a lot on the singing and then forget about the acting, but that is equally important. So if you are training to pursue a part like Christine, you need to be aware that not only does your voice need to be properly trained but you should never neglect your acting abilities. Really invest strongly in the proper training, because it is not something that you can achieve overnight. I’ve spent years studying and striving for something and it’s not always easy, but it is definitely worth it in the end. Above all, don’t give up. if you really want something, you should keep fighting for it until you achieve it.
Jasmine and Michelle: How do you maintain your voice so you are able to hit the high notes night after night? Do you use special techniques like steaming?
I am careful with my voice, I have been trained and I really rely on my technique to keep me going, but also there are a lot of basic things that I do, like drinking a lot of water and making sure that I do a proper warm-up every single night. I also keep visiting my singing teacher – that’s not something you should ever stop doing, because it’s important to be heard by someone that can sometimes spot things that you’re not able too yourself. Also if I’m feeling slightly under the weather, either I decide early on that I will not be performing because I know that I won’t be able to give 100% , or if I think I can still do it that’s when technique takes over, because I know I will have to work twice as hard with my body to be able te achieve the same result. I play 6 shows a week as Christine and of course I’m only human, so there are days that it feels fine and it’s all working perfectly, and then there are days when I am tired and those little things will affect your voice. Then it comes down to doing your warm-up and your stretch and your physical warm-up.
Grant: What’s the strangest thing that has happened to you while doing this show?
There are always little things, when you’re performing live things can go wrong. Sometimes people don’t notice, but other times they do, and then it’s up to the actors to sort it out. If we were being filmed we could always go back, but that’s not something you can do onstage! A recent one was when I get out of the dressing room scene and I call for Raoul, and then I go back inside because I hear some noise. When I was going back inside, my negligee got stuck on the staircase and as I walked in I could here this loud rip and I thought, “OK!” It was sort of stuck there and I had to hold it for as long as I could and then go out again, take it away from the stairs and carry on as if nothing had ever happened. The funniest thing was, I remember turning to Phantom and it was Scott Davies that night, and I could see him giggling behind the mirror, because he could see my negligee was completely ripped. I’m sure the audience noticed that one! I had a dresser backstage already with another negligee I could change into before the boat, but I was a bit shaky after that…
Another time, I went into the dressing room, and I’m supposed to take out my ballet shoes and sit down on a stool to change into the white shoes. But I looked back and there was no stool! I started taking out the ballet shoes, standing, and tried to balance. I was nervous, thinking, “How am I going to play the rest of the scene?” But luckily the actress playing the dresser saw it was hiding underneath the table and pulled it out just in time…
Tricky question. I think that, exactly as Christine is, I’d be really confused. I can’t forget that she’s really young and it’s a different time. So if I was 17 and I was being town between Raoul and Phantom, who are complete opposites – it’s really hard. I really don’t know who I’d pick!
Fiona asks: Do you have to know ballet in order to play the role of Christine?
I never trained in dancing at all. Although I would have found it much easier if I had, I don’t think it’s a necessary thing – well, I’m here! But it is harder and I wish I had trained in classical dancing, or ballet. I have to work a lot harder to be able to it. Luckily I am working with some amazing people here at Phantom, and they support me and are very patient with me.
Sophie asks: How do you keep the role fresh every night without getting bored?
I don’t think I could ever get bored of Phantom. Every single time I play it, I try and live it as if it’s the first time, and I think that’s the secret of not letting it fall into a pattern. Because it’s live, it’s always a different show. I try and find new things, even little things, and sometimes something new happens and you think, “yes, I could really use that” – or sometimes it doesn’t work, and you don’t try that again. I think one of the main plus points about playing the role for a year as I have here is that you really have the time to develop and to grow and to strive to improve every single day.
Also I’ve played with several Phantoms – Stephen John Davis, Scott Davies, John Owen-Jones, and when I was understudy I played alongside Ramin Karimloo and Nic Greenshields. When you play the part with different actors, they will give you different things, and if you’re open to it you’ll be able to react without any preconceptions. That’s quite nice, when someone new comes to the part. Every single actor will play a part differently, so it’s exciting.