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A Reimagined and Reinvigorated Phantom of the Opera Will Haunt the Durham Performing Arts Center on Feb. 28-March 4 and March 6-11

Quentin Oliver Lee and Eva Tavares star as The Phantom and Christine (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Quentin Oliver Lee and Eva Tavares star as The Phantom and Christine (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The critically acclaimed North American tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s phenomenally successful 1986 West End and 1988 Broadway backstage musical, The Phantom of the Opera, is returning to the Triangle on Feb. 28-March 4 and March 6-11 to haunt the Durham Performing Arts Center, in the American Tobacco District. This boldly reimagined and reinvigorated version of The Phantom of the Opera, produced by Cameron Mackintosh of London and NETworks Presentations, LLC of Columbia, MD, in association with Really Useful Group of London, stars African-American actor Quentin Oliver Lee as the mysterious facially disfigured musical genius Erik (The Phantom of the Opera), a.k.a. the Angel of Music or the Opera Ghost; Eva Tavares as young Swedish soprano, chorus girl, and impressionable ingénue Christine Daaé, who becomes The Phantom’s musical protégée — and the object of his affection and his obsession — without ever seeing the hideously deformed face of her masked mentor and music teacher; and Trista Moldovan, who plays prima donna Carlotta Giudicelli, the opera’s resident diva, Christine’s principal rival for leading roles, and the unwitting target of a terror campaign that The Phantom wages to drive Carlotta from the stage of Paris’ Palais Garnier, where the fictional Opéra Populaire performs — although seldom up to the persnickety Phantom’s standards.

The current tour features spectacular new sets by scenic designer Paul Brown and sensational new staging by director Laurence Connor and choreographer Scott Ambler. Messrs. Connor, Ambler, Brown, and cohorts have “refreshed” the longest-running show in the history of London’s West End and New York City’s Great White Way by making its colorful cast of characters more realistic — more human — and its dazzling special effects even more eye-popping.

“This production of Phantom is more spectacular than ever,” claims Trista Moldovan (pronounced “TRIS-tuh MOAL-duh-vahn”). “It has an opulence all its own. It still has the same spectacle and beautiful music…. This version fleshes out the story that [audiences] know and love.”

The tour also stars Jordan Craig as Christine’s childhood sweetheart and current suitor Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny; Kristie Dale Sanders as the opera’s ballet mistress Madame Giry; Emily Ramirez as her daughter and Christine’s best friend and fellow ballerina Meg Giry; David Benoit as Monsieur Firmin and Edward Staudenmayer as Monsieur André, the managers of the Opéra Populaire; and Phumzile Sojola as Carlotta’s husband and the opera’s leading tenor Ubaldo Piangi.

Trista Moldovan stars as Italian diva Carlotta Giudicelli (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Trista Moldovan stars as Italian diva Carlotta Giudicelli (photo by Matthew Murphy)

DPAC patrons will delight in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s pastiche of musical styles — rock-opera, faux-operatic, and traditional show tunes. It creates some haunting melodies, and Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe’s expressive lyrics add a dash of humor to ease the rising tension in Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber’s riveting dramatization of French journalist and crime novelist Gaston Leroux’s Gothic horror novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. The North American tour of the mega-hit West End and Broadway musical The Phantom of the Opera features a cast and orchestra of 52, performing a magnificent score that includes the title tune, “The Music of the Night,” “All I Ask of You,” and “Masquerade/Why So Silent?”

Set between 1881 and 1911, in and below the Paris Opéra House, The Phantom of the Opera premiered on Oct. 9, 1986 in Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End. Directed by Harold Prince and choreographed by Gillian Lynne, the show starred Michael Crawford as the Phantom, Lloyd Webber’s then-wife Sarah Brightman as Christine, and Steve Barton as Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny. Phantom featured sets and costumes by Maria Björnson and lighting by Andrew Bridge. It won the 1986 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical, presented by the Society of London Theatre.

The Phantom of the Opera made its Broadway debut, produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Theatre Company Ltd. and directed by Hal Prince, with musical staging and choreography by Gillian Lynne, on Jan. 26, 1988 at the Majestic Theatre, where it has totaled more than 12,500 performances to date. The show’s original Broadway production also starred Michael Crawford as The Phantom, Sarah Brightman as Christine, and Steve Barton as Raoul.

That production of Phantom won the seven 1988 Tony Awards®, including the Tonys for Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Michael Crawford as The Phantom), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Judy Kaye as Carlotta Guidicelli), Best Direction of a Musical (Hal Prince), Best Scenic Design and Best Costume Design (both Maria Björnson), and Best Lighting Design (Andrew Bridge).

The 2004 motion-picture version of The Phantom of the Opera, directed by Joel Schumacher from a screenplay that he co-authored with Andrew Lloyd Webber, starred Gerard Butler as the Phantom, Emmy Rossum as Christine, Patrick Wilson as Raoul, Miranda Richardson as Madame Giry, and Minnie Driver as Carlotta. It received three 2005 Academy Award® nominations, including a nomination for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart for “Learn to Be Lonely“).

Kristie Dale Sanders stars as the opera's ballet mistress, Madame Giry (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Kristie Dale Sanders stars as the opera’s ballet mistress, Madame Giry (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The current North American Tour of The Phantom of the Opera is produced by London-based Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Theatre Company and NETworks Presentations, LLC of Columbia, MD and directed by Laurence Connor, who also directed the 25th anniversary production of Les Misérables in 2010 on Broadway and at The O2 in London and the 25th anniversary presentation of Miss Saigon in London’s West End in September 2014.

The tour’s creative team also includes executive producer Seth Wenig, production overseer Matthew Bourne, choreographer Scott Ambler, associate director Seth Sklar-Heyn, associate choreographer Nina Goldman, musical director Jamie Johns, resident director Max Quinlan, musical supervisor John Rigby costume coordinator for the late Maria Björnson Christine Rowland, hair and wig creator Angela Cobbin, sound designer Mick Potter, video & projection designer for Knifedge Nina Dunn, company manager Joel T. Herbst, production stage manager Heather Chockley, stage manager Mitchell B. Hodges, and assistant stage managers Michelle Dunn and Lizz Bender.

The tour’s Ensemble includes Emma Grimsley and Jordan Ensign as Princesses in Hannibal; Mark Emerson as an Auctioneer; Constantine Pappas as a Porter; Jay Lusteck as Monsieur LeFévre and a Firechief; David Foley, Jr. as Monsieur Reyer; Victor Wallace as Joseph Buquet; Marguerite Willbanks as a Wardrobe Mistress; Sarah Mossman as a Wildwoman in Hannibal; assistant dance captain Shane Ohmer and Blake Zelesnikar as Slave Masters in Don Juan Triumphant; Stephen Mitchell Brown as a Jeweler in Il Muto and Passarino in Hannibal; Carmen Vass as Madame Firmin and the Confidante in Il Muto; Travis Taylor as a Hairdresser; Adam Bashian as Don Attilio in Il Muto; and Herb Porter as Policeman in Pit. The Corps de Ballet of the Opéra Populaire includes (in alphabetical order): Jordan Lombardi, McKenna Birmingham, Daniela Filippone, Jordan Lombardi, Kate Mueller, Danielle Reinstein, and Ally Taylor Sacks; and Swings include (in alphabetical order): Daniella Dalli, Dan Debenport, Sarah DeBiase, Edward Juvier, Adryan Moorefield, dance captain Lily Rose Peck, and Jessica Wagner.

The Phantom threatens opera managers Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur André, played by David Benoit (left) and Edward Staudenmayer in this tour of <em>The Phantom of the Opera</em> (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The Phantom threatens opera managers Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur André, played by David Benoit (left) and Edward Staudenmayer in The Phantom of the Opera at DPAC (photo by Matthew Murphy)

“I have been involved with one production or other of Phantom for almost 10 years now,” says thirtysomething actress Trista Moldovan, who was born Kettering, OH (a suburb of Dayton), graduated from Brunswick High School in Brunswick, OH (in the Cleveland Metropolitan Area), and earned a Bachelor of Music in Music Theatre degree in 2002 from Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music in Berea, OH. When she first witnessed a live performance of Phantom as a young girl, Moldovan says, “I was completely enchanted. I started listening to the double-cassette tape, and fell in love with the music. So, [Phantom] has been part of my life for a long time.”

After college graduation, Moldovan says, she and three college friends moved to New York City to pursue their dreams of making it big in musical theater. In 2008, she says, a few weeks after she joined the Ensemble of the third national tour of Phantom, which commenced on Dec. 3, 1992 and concluded on Oct. 31, 2010, “They asked me to take over the role of Christine…. It was thrilling. Categorically, it was my big break.”

In reviewing Trista Moldovan’s November 28, 2009 DPAC performance as Christine for CVNC, yours truly wrote, “Trista Moldovan is … splendid as The Phantom’s reluctant protégée, the talented but inexperienced Swedish soprano Christine Daaé, whom the ‘Opera Ghost’ grooms for stardom.”

Hollywood Reporter critic Jay Reiner wrote, “Trista Moldovan, as spellbound Christine, has a lovely, crystalline soprano that underlines the character’s innocent yet troubled heart. It’s not hard to understand what The Phantom sees in his beauteous protégée.” And Entertainment Today (Los Angeles) Mary E. Montoro reviewer added, “Moldovan is great as the naïve Christine. She’s able to be vulnerable one minute and powerful in the next. As a heroine, she comes across as gentle and people can empathize. The audience wants her to find true love and both suitors have distinct qualities that appeal to her.”

Moldovan played Christine in Phantom for a couple of years, took a year off, and then joined the Broadway cast of Phantom as Christine in 2011-12. She had the honor of playing Christine in the show’s 10,000th performance on Broadway. Then, in 2016, she joined the musical’s fourth national tour in the role of Christine’s temperamental archrival Carlotta, who will not go quietly, despite The Phantom’s escalating scare tactics.

“I had definitely grown out of the role of Christine, and was ready for the role of Carlotta,” admits Trista Moldovan. She compares the role of Christine to a marathon, because she’s onstage so much, and the role of Carlotta to a crossfit workout. (“It [requires] shorter, more intense bursts of energy,” quips Moldovan.)

The North American tour of <em>Phantom</em> performs a scene from  <em>Hannibal</em> (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The North American tour of Phantom performs a scene from Hannibal (photo by Matthew Murphy)

In reviewing the current tour, Jack O’Dwyer wrote in The Simmons Voice of Simmons College in Boston, MA: “…This version [of Phantom seems] to want to go for a comedic approach wherever it could. Trista Moldovan, playing the role of Carlotta Giudicelli, accomplished this very well and stole the show quite a few times with simple gestures. She had great onstage chemistry with Phumzile Sojola, [who plays Carlotta’s husband] Ubaldo Piangi, which is always a pleasure to see between these two characters….”

In his review for The Cap Times of Madison, WI, Lindsay Christians wrote, “… Trista Moldovan as the ousted diva Carlotta is a sheer delight. Her vocals sparkle on ‘Think of Me,’ and ‘Prima Donna’ is clear and impeccably timed….” In the Fort Worth, TX Star-Telegram review, Punch Shaw added, “… Trista Moldovan, as the house diva and Christine’s stage rival Carlotta, adds a gorgeous voice and an experienced perspective. She sang the role of Christine on Broadway, and she seems very much at home, even though her costume has changed.”

Trista Moldovan says, “At the time of my life that I played Christine, it was the role of a lifetime and something that I had dreamed about since I was a little girl.”

Playing Christine not only showcased Trista Moldovan’s musical-theater talents, and gave her theatrical career a big boost; but it also introduced her to her future husband, actor Stephen Tewksbury, whom she met in a road company of Phantom before she made Broadway debut as Christine from Dec. 9, 2011 to Nov. 10, 2012.

In July 2012, Moldovan told “He was The Phantom understudy. And it was so funny because we went on as Phantom and Christine about 50 times together, and then we started dating, and we never went on together after that — it was the strangest thing.” (Moldovan and Tewksbury married in September 2012, and make their home in Brooklyn, NY.) “Finally, The Phantom got the girl!” she quipped in yet another interview.

The current national tour of <em>The Phantom of the Opera</em>, playing Feb. 28-March 4 and March 6-11 at the Durham Performing Arts Center, will perform &quot;Masquerade&quot; (photo by Alastair Muir)

The current national tour of The Phantom of the Opera, playing Feb. 28-March 4 and March 6-11 at the Durham Performing Arts Center, will perform “Masquerade” (photo by Alastair Muir)

SECOND OPINION: Feb. 27th Raleigh, NC Raleigh BWW TV interview with Eva Tavares, conducted by Jeffrey Kare:; Feb. 26th Raleigh, NC preview by Kathy Hanrahan for “What’s on Tap”:; Feb.23rd Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Linda Haac:; Feb. 22nd Durham, NC Spectacular Magazine podcast interview with Quentin Oliver Lee, conducted by Jeffrey Kare:; and Feb. 21st Burlington, NC Times-News preview by Rachel Teseneer for “Teens & Twenties”:

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28, 1 and 7:30 p.m. March 1, 8 p.m. March 2, 2 and 8 p.m. March 3, 1 and 6:30 p.m. March 4, 7:30 p.m. March 6-8, 8 p.m. March 9, 2 and 8 p.m. March 10, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. March 11 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $35 and up, plus taxes and fees. (Note: There will be a limited number of single $20-$30 rush tickets available at DPAC’s Blue Cross NC Ticket Center, starting at 10 a.m. the day of the performance).


DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787),, or

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587,, or

SHOW: and



U.S. TOUR:,–500558,,, and






NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, March 10th, performance.


The Phantom of the Opera (Le Fantôme de l’Opéra) (1910 French novel): (Wikipedia).

Gaston Leroux (French author and journalist, 1868-1927): (official website), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

The Phantom of the Opera (1986 West End and 1988 Broadway musical): (official website), (Andrew Lloyd Webber web page), (Internet Broadway Database), (Wikipedia).

Andrew Lloyd Webber (music and book): (official website), (Encyclopædia Britannica), (tour bio), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Charles Hart (lyrics): (tour bio), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Richard Stilgoe (additional lyrics and book): (tour bio), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Trista Moldovan (Brooklyn, NY actress who plays Carlotta Giudicelli): (official website), (tour bio), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), (Facebook page), and (Twitter page).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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