BWW Interview: David Thaxton Talks THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Celebrating its 33rd year at Her Majesty's Theatre in London's West End, The Phantom of the Opera welcomes David Thaxton as its new "Angel of Music" from 10 December. David speaks to BroadwayWorld about his career and donning the iconic mask.
What made you want to become a performer?
I don't think there was a specific moment. Sure, there were moments of awe in the theatre, like when I saw Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyceum in 1997, and the first time I saw Les Mis. Performing is something I've always been interested in.
I come from a Welsh family who are all musical and I loved doing amateur dramatics. It still annoys me a little that no one said I should go to drama school, but I guess it doesn't matter because I stumbled into performing anyway.
What was your first musical theatre role?
After studying voice/opera at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, I got an audition for being part of a company of singers that would mark the opening gala of the Millennium Centre in Cardiff.
Ken Caswell, who was the original Bishop of Digne in Les Mis, was directing us for that gala and I asked him for an audition for a show at the afterparty. In 2005, I was seen for Miss Saigon, the production with Ramin Karimloo and Kerry Ellis I think.
They said I wasn't right for the show, but that led to an audition for Les Mis as Courfeyrac and other roles, and then I got to understudy Enjolras and the Bishop, then play Enjolras and Javert.
You played Raoul in Love Never Dies and you've played various roles in Les Miserables over the years. How do you find returning to a familiar show, or the show's universe at least, as a different character?
The "universe" of Phantom is actually entirely different to that of Love Never Dies. Aside from there being characters called Raoul, Christine, the Phantom, Madame Giry, Meg, it's really not the same.
I got caught out a little bit returning to Les Mis though. Technically, I've had seven contracts over six years playing lots of characters. I remember on one occasion muscle memory made me sing someone else's lines!
Which of the characters you've played are you most like, or has resonated most with you?
I've played a lot of similar characters - authoritarians with a bit of an ego! I guess I'm drawn to those characters because there must be something within me that means I can exercise that, but it doesn't necessarily mean that I'm like them.
I played a character called John Howard, a soldier involved in D-Day, in a show called Only the Brave in Cardiff. He essentially invented Special Ops, and while I'm not like him, I really liked him as a character. He's stuck with me because of his humanness.
What's your favourite moment in Phantom? Any scenes you're particularly looking forward to performing?
Oh yes, I'm looking forward to the part at the end of the show called "The Final Lair". It's a great scene between the Phantom, Christine and Raoul. We're just getting to it in rehearsals.
There's a lot going on in the scene, a lot of high drama and tension. It's the sort of moment you can't do half-heartedly, much like "Javert's Suicide" or "The Final Battle" as Enjolras.
How have rehearsals been going with the current company?
I haven't actually met the company yet - that's happening later this week. I'm looking forward it though because it's a bit of a reunion with my Passion castmates, which will be really lovely.
I've really just been working with the MD, Kelly [Mathieson] and Jeremy [Taylor] in the scenes involving the Phantom, Christine and Raoul. I'm really enjoying it. It's so much fun. It's a brilliant show.
Why do you think The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables have been such successful shows?
It's easy for people to forget why shows that have run for decades continue to do so. You still can't get a ticket for The Mousetrap, Phantom and Les Mis at times. If they weren't any good, they wouldn't run.
In Phantom there's a little more high drama than Les Mis. It's part-romance, it's about obsession, interesting themes that draw people. I've realised in this rehearsal process just how well constructed Phantom is and just how good a job the creative team did crafting it in the first place.
There are these iconic images associated with these shows which stick with people: the flag in Les Mis at the end of "One Day More"; the first time seeing the Phantom appear in the mirror - just amazing.
Is there any advice you'd have given yourself ten years ago?
Well, ten years ago I was playing Enjolras in Les Mis, so I probably wouldn't have changed much to be honest! I'm not sure if the stuff that has come my way would have done so if I had gone to drama school.
I feel like my route has been very fortunate. I suppose I would have told myself to try and appreciate moments as they happen. I'd love to have one more go as Enjolras with that hindsight.
Out of Enjolras, Raoul or Pilot, who would you go on a road trip with? Where would you go?
I think they would all be insufferable on a road trip! If I had to choose I would say Raoul, because while we wouldn't have much to talk about he would likely bring something decent to drink - a nice scotch perhaps. And we would go somewhere where we can do things separately...
Why should people come to see your take on the Phantom? Or perhaps come back to Phantom?
People should come back to Phantom because at the halfway point through rehearsing at the moment, I really feel like we're doing really interesting stuff - definitely a different take on things. It feels fresh and truthful and that's enough for me. I'm very excited play the Phantom.
Photo credit: Johan Persson