Phantom of the Opera: A Q&A with John Owen-Jones

The Phantom of the Opera has been seen by over a million people worldwide and is celebrating its 30th year in the West End this year.

Now is your chance to get to know the fantastic John Owen-Jones, who has played the Phantom more times in the West End than any actor in the show’s history. Who better to find out what goes on back stage than him!

We asked YOU on Twitter to send in your questions and we picked some of the best for John....

You've played the Phantom many times, what keeps bringing you back to the role?

I really enjoy working at Her Majesty’s Theatre for one thing. It’s a lovely building full of lovely people but I suppose the role of The Phantom is deeply layered enough for me to keep looking for new ways of interpreting the role which is probably why I keep coming back to it – it’s also a very satisfying role to sing! And I also keep getting asked which is nice!

Who is your back-stage buddy?

The Phantom is a very lonely role – I don’t really get to see the ensemble and only work with Raoul and Christine onstage so I don’t really see many of the cast during the show. I have a dart board in my dressing room so I sometimes have a few visitors during each show who attempt to beat me (no one has yet!) I also love doing cryptic crosswords with some of the crew backstage.

Credit: Johan Persson

Who was the first Phantom you saw, and did any of his performance inspire or shape your own take on the role? (@SJHodgson78)

The first Phantom I saw was Ethan Freeman (who I later worked with in Les Misérables). I remember him being very good but it was quite a few years before I first took on the role so I don’t think he inspired me really. I came to the show with a fresh pair of eyes I think – I more or less started with a blank page as I had only seen the show once in the West End before I took over as The Phantom.

How does performing in TV compare to performing on stage?

As you can imagine it’s very different – you don’t get to refine your performance on TV as you only get a few takes for a scene but in theatre you get to try something new every night. Being a perfectionist, I think theatre appeals to me a little more.

How long does it take to both create and remove the Phantoms deformity? (@Jade40094269)

It takes about an hour to apply it and about 20 minutes to remove it. In the past the prosthetics were painted after being applied to the face (they start off as blank pre-moulded pieces) but now Tanya, Phantom’s resident make up artist, pre-paints them to save time. They are then glued on and blended in with the rest of my face. It’s much quicker nowadays as make up techniques are more advanced than when the show first opened. The worst part of the whole make up process is applying LOTS of glue to the bald cap I wear to which the prosthetics are applied.

What has been one of your favourite memories from playing the Phantom? (@Ashleyfilms)

There are loads of good memories so I don’t think I can single out just one. Working with Andrew (Lloyd Webber) and Hal (Prince) and Gillian (Lynne), being part of special finales in New York and the Albert Hall for the 25th anniversary celebrations and reinventing the role for the new production for the 25th anniversary. Oh and I really enjoyed going to the film premiere party!

Has anything unexpected ever happened on stage? (@ChloeYingW)

All the time – but nothing too embarrassing. Phantom is such a busy technical show that tiny things can go wrong sometimes due to a technical error e.g. the firestick I use in the mausoleum scene doesn’t work, or the bellows on the organ don’t move when I play it etc. Most of the time it’s a clean show thankfully! One time the boat in the first journey scene stopped working half way down the stage so we had to get out and “walk on water”!

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA - John Owen Jones as 'The Phantom' and Celinde Schoenmaker as 'Christine Daa+-«'. Photo credit Johan Persson

What’s your favourite show of all time and why?

Into The Woods. I love all of Sondheim’s stuff (I worked with him on A Little Night Music at the National in 1995 which was a great experience) but Into the Woods particularly appeals to me because there are so many layers to the story and it has a universal message. I would love to play The Baker one day!

What is your next dream role? (Carol Koronec)

My next role is something quite exciting that I’m really looking forward to doing but my dream role is probably Sweeney in Sweeney Todd – perhaps when I’m a little older.

What advice would you give to aspiring actors?

Keep practicing and get as much experience of performance as you can. It all goes to inform you as a human being and will make you a better actor.

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Carol A Koronec

Was a good interview. Was nice to see my question up there. Thanks for choosing it. Like what John answer back.
kind regards,
Carol Koronec

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