Playing the lead role in what is considered one of the most popular and most commercially successful musicals of all time cannot be anything less than an extremely daunting task. The West End production, currently running at Her Majesty’s Theatre, has seen a range of actors come and go. From Michael Crawford, the Phantom of the original cast in 1986, another fifteen replacements, the magnificent Ramin Karimloo, the mask has now been passed to prominent West End star David Shannon.
Shannon comes with an impressive West End resume already underneath his belt. Most recently, he fulfilled a run as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. He has also starred as Sweeny Todd in the musical of the same name at the Gate Theatrein Dublin, for which he received critical acclaim. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for the Best Actor in a Musical for his performance as John in the Andrew Lloyd Webber hit The Beautiful Game, a role he created.
The role of the Phantom is a complex one, a character with immense depth requiring both subtlety and intensity from an actor. The Phantom is a deformed genius, trapped from a young age beneath a Parisian opera house. We meet him as his protégé, the dancing girl Christine Daae who he has tutored as a sensational soprano singer, gets a lucky opportunity to take the lead role in the opera Hannibal. It is soon revealed that this is the Phantom’s doing, and his obsession with Christine takes on sinister overtones. When she returns the affections of Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, the Phantom abducts her to his lake beneath the opera house, where he intends to make her his bride.
Shannon certainly has the experience for the part and has been successful so far, having replaced the popular lead Ramin Karimloo, who left to prepare for his role as the same character ten years later in Lloyd Webber’s sequel to Phantom, Love Never Dies.