MEET THE DIRECTOR – Eli Newsom

What drew you to directing Phantom?

My part-time job in college was working as an usher at the touring houses in San Francisco, and I worked/saw over 100 performances of the well-known Andrew Lloyd Webber version during a sit-down run in 1994 – so the lore/storyline was intimately familiar. In my research for crafting this season, I had listened to this Maury Yeston version and was immediately drawn to the score, which led to researching the intriguing differences between the two versions. My relationship to music (I hold a B.A. in Music) and interest in directing shows that I have never seen led me towards helming this piece.

What was your first introduction to Phantom?

While celebrating the Cabaret’s 40th Anniversary two seasons ago we dug into the archives, and it was at that time I discovered that DCT had a successful run of this show in 1998. It was the perfect excuse to pick up the cast recording and give it a listen.

Most people aren’t aware of the difference between PHANTOM and Phantom of the Opera. What, in your opinion, are the differences that you believe will pleasantly surprise the audience?

Certainly, the material in this version is a more intimate exploration of the characters, particularly in the case of the character of the Phantom, who is humanized much more. Without giving away too much, he in fact, has a name and backstory, which the material explores. I think this version allows audiences to empathize with his plight more than the mostly melodramatic Lloyd-Webber version of the show.

What are some of the challenges you foresee with this production?

I would classify this show as an operetta, so right off the bat, we face the challenge of the vocal demands of the score. In the age of pop/rock-musicals and singing, we are fortunate to have a classically trained group of excellent singer-actors, as well as classically trained ballerinas who appear in the chorus. Another challenge for us as a production is to find the right tonal and emotional balance in this piece–the alternation of comedy and drama/horror, realism, and melodrama.

The message of PHANTOM is that music can alleviate the pain of life. Can you share a time with us where you connected to this message?

Like others in the cast have also said in their Q&A posts, music is a daily dose of therapy for me. Next to procreation, in my opinion, it is perhaps the most wondrous, inexplicable phenomenon that humans experience, and is one of the primary means I connect with my fellow brothers and sisters.