The Phantom of the Opera has been celebrated as one of the best musicals for the last 3 decades and it continues to be one of the longest-running shows on Broadway. One of the reasons that the show has been so successful is because of the amazing cast that has continued to share the timeless love story of the Phantom and Christine Daae. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Meghan Picerno, who recently made her Broadway debut as Christine Daae, to find out more about how she trained for the role and what it's like playing one of the most iconic Broadway roles in history.
Scroll below to find out more about Meghan's aspiring career and get a peek at our backstage tour of the show...!
Although this was Meghan's first time playing Christine Daae on Broadway, this was not her first time performing the role. In fact, I met Meghan in 2018 when she originated the role of Christine in the North American premiere of Love Never Dies (the sequel to the Phantom of the Opera - yes, there's a sequel! Click here to check out our interview together). Afterward, she went on tour to perform the role of Christine in the world tour of Phantom of the Opera for eight months. She then started rehearsals for her Broadway debut only one month after the world tour ended and is already getting tons of buzz around her incredible performance!
What was it like to step on the stage that first night as Christine Daae in the Majestic Theater on Broadway?
It was epic! It was literally every color of the rainbow that you could possibly expect. There are things in the Broadway world that I had never experienced before and one of them was that I would have a "put-in". Addict Insider: A "put-in" is where the new member of an established cast does a run-through rehearsal of the entire show in their costumes so they can get a sense of bearings on all aspects of the role (entrances, costume changes, interactions with props/other characters, etc).
But actually, the first time I did the full-on performance, in this particular version, WAS my debut! Yes, I did the world tour version for 8-months but this is its own special version. So for example, the opening night was the first time it was full-on dark and I was climbing the ladder and going up and down the stairs in costume. I had a few weeks of practice but it covered certain scenes of the show. So to be honest, it was a beautiful and crazy blur. I was full of bliss and gratitude.
After reminiscing about her debut, I learned that not every Phantom of the Opera show is the same! Meaning, what you see on the national tour vs. the global tour vs. what you see in London vs. what is performed on Broadway is all different. Different in the sense of choreography, the cast-to cast-interactions, sets, costumes, etc. However, the music and the storyline that we all love and cherish remains the same.
I'm still having to undo muscle memory from the global tour because I did it more than 5x a week for almost a year! But something that I didn't expect is that it's made me completely rediscover the role because the relationships are ever so slightly different, the logistics of the stage is different and the acoustics of the Majestic Theater is different because I sing with the largest orchestra on Broadway (which is around 27 people!).
Click the video above to watch our exclusive backstage tour with Meghan!
What have you loved about being on Broadway and what do you miss about being on tour?
I love New York. It's my home. It makes a huge difference when your support team is physically within your vicinity as appose to a Skype call away. And plus, I'm on Broadway!! Everything about it is grand, just like New York. Phantom is New York and New York is Phantom. They go hand in hand! You can't have one without the other. You just can't go to New York City without seeing Phantom! It's one of the ultimate bucket-list things to do. You just have to see it...
For those that haven't seen Phantom of the Opera yet, why should this be on their New York City Bucket-list? What makes it so iconic?
Coming from the opera world, it's quite operatic in the sense that there is so much tradition and legacy. Musical theater is quintessentially American just like opera is to Italy. And Broadway's Phantom of the Opera has been passed down through GENERATIONS and what other show has that right now? At this point, there isn't any. t's so amazing how many incredible actors and singers have gone through the Phantom family... gotten their start here, have returned, etc.
Now, the piece itself is epic! It's hard to put it into words because it's timeless. There is no detail that has not been completely thought through - there is no mistake to it.
What do you think Christine Daae be like if she was alive today?
She'd be fierce! Although rights were different for a woman in her time period, she is still intelligent, inquisitive, and powerful in her own way. Throughout the storyline of Phantom of the Opera, you'll see her as a girl evolving into a strong and confident woman.
Was it difficult to go backward in the storyline after performing Love Never Dies?
We actually had a very long discussion about this during my rehearsal process for the world tour. Love Never Dies shows us her truth and her future and a 10-year backstory of why things happened the way they did. On the one hand, I know who she becomes but I have to forget it all because she doesn't know that. For instance, all that strength that she has in Love Never Dies, she doesn't have yet and hasn't yet blossomed into the opera diva that she becomes.
I'm the only person who has performed Love Never Dies as a principal Christine and have then gone backward into Phantom of the Opera. There are only a few of us who have done both. As an actor, it has given me a full 360 experience because I now understand all of her psyche. For instance, in the Phantom, I don't think she is possessed by him. I think she has a strong sense of curiosity and imagination and makes the choice to walk through that mirror.
Why is the Phantom of the Opera considered a musical vs an opera, even though you sing opera in the show?
There are things that are very similar! However, for me, the way we sing and project is what makes it different from an opera. Instead of thinking technically of how to reach the person in the back row without a mic, I have a mic and it helps me be able to express emotions differently and softer.
What's been fun about the role is finding when Christine's role is "speaking" to a friend through singing, when is she is reflecting and when is she "performing in a show". All of those different types of situations call for different styles of singing. And because of my operatic training, I'm able to access a broad range of colors of my voice for each type of scene.
What is your all-time favorite Phantom of the Opera song and why?
Final Lair: there is so much emotion. It's a very empowering and heartbreaking scene for her. (Although I really love Past the Point of No Return- it's very sexy!)
Getting a significant role like this on Broadway doesn't happen just overnight. It takes a ton of work, passion, and dedication. What do you advise those that are dreaming to be a star on Broadway or those that are looking to achieve their ultimate career goals?
Always stay true to yourself. I don't try to be someone else. Like, "Hey, I'm going to be the next Kristin Chenoweth." No, although that would be awesome because she's amazing but she's her own. Patty Lupone, her own. Sarah Brightman, her own. I want to be the first Meghan Picerno because I'm the only Meghan Picerno! You have love yourself and believe in yourself.
Written by Kari Lincks Coomans