Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary: Interview with Ramin Karimloo

Posted on: 14 November 2011 by Alexander Hay

In time for the show's 25th anniversary, 'phormer' Phantom of the Opera Ramin Karimloo took off his mask and revealed how he got involved in the recent Albert Hall performance, out now on DVD & Blu Ray!

Ramin Karimloo, yesterdayRamin, you are about to appear in three special performances of Phantom of the Opera to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Looking forward to pulling on the mask again?

Yes, it’s been a bit part of my career thus far. I’m a big fan of the show for a long time now, especially as a kid, so to be part of this celebration I’m really blessed and grateful for it. It’s going to be a lot of fun too. I think we’re going to blow the roof of the Royal Albert Hall with the sound system.

How long does it take to put that mask on? Presumably that’s not your favourite part of the show.

The mask is easy. It’s the prosthetics. I’m not going to miss that, that’s for sure. I think my skin’s excited not to have that after this Sunday. Usually in a show it doesn’t take that long but because we’re going to be recorded in hi-definition we’ve got Chris Tucker coming back who was the original designer of it – he also designed the Elephant Man’s make-up for the film. He’s actually applying on me so no corners are missed. It’s going to take at least two hours. Which is an earlier call time than usually needed.

Can you recall the first time you saw or heard Phantom?

It was in December, I think in 1992, out in Toronto. The only reason I went was it was a school trip. I couldn’t think of anything worse than go and see what I thought was a boring opera. And man, I was just like blown away by it. Colm Wilkinson was the Phantom at the time and I remember his voice was like something I’d never heard before. I’d never been moved by something artistic like that and I remember thinking that would be cool to do.

So are you saying it had a key role in taking you into this profession?

Absolutely, after seeing that I got into music and into rock bands and I really got into following the careers of Daniel Day Lewis, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro and I’m like, I want to be like them. So I decided I wanted to become an actor and I remember thinking the Phantom was a role I wanted to play.

Initially you were Raoul.

That was 2004 at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

How many times did you play it?

I see actors who say that – “I played it this many times”. I don’t know how they get that number. I played it for one year. It was a contract, so barring some holidays and sickness I did most of that year but I don't know how they find out those numbers.

So when did you first play the Phantom?

The first time I played the Phantom, I was 26 or 27. I took over as standby initially. It was just after my birthday. I remember the big moment when everyone waits for the chandelier and I got my foot stuck where the angel goes up so the angel couldn’t dock properly. The chandelier won’t go because it thinks the angel is still down and it will crash into me. I couldn’t get my foot out, I’m being crushed, but I’m still thinking, save the show, and saying “Go-o-o-o-o!” for the cue for the chandelier. My first show and I ruined the big chandelier moment!

That’s not going to be happening here at the Albert Hall, is it?

No, it doesn’t rely on anything I have to do. They’ve taken that room for error out of the equation.

How has your relationship with the “phans” been over the years?

I’ve had a lot of great supporters. It’s been good. Every year it increases. On social networking sites like Twitter I see my numbers grow. I just think it’s pretty amazing. Every month another thousand. So far no dangerous moments or any crazy stories. They’ve helped develop a career for me.

This is going to be broadcast into cinemas around the world, it’s going to be on DVD and Blu-ray CD and available on download. It’s going to be the definitive birthday treat. Does it come with a big sense of responsibility for you in the lead role?

I’m excited that it’s going to be filmed. As an actor there are slightly different ways you can play it now. You can play it knowing you can internalise it more too because what’s left from years on from here on in is the DVD. I think it’s a great thing.

Will you play the Phantom again or is this your way of saying goodbye to it?

They always say never say never but for me I’ve got to say goodbye to it now because what more can I do with it? it’s not a job for me, it’s a passion and I think at this point I might have to go away to come back.

Can you explain the secret of the show’s longevity?

It came out at the right time. Comparing it now with musicals starting today it’s a bit unfair because of the economy and the way the world is right now. It’s got unbelievable music, music that moves you – just a couple of chords or just a certain melody that people get transfixed with - and then you’ve got the perfect book. It’s not overcomplicated. People can relate to it. They can relate to all the characters, especially the Phantom because of what’s at the core of him. Cameron has also put on an amazing production. In the blink of an eye a whole new scene is in front of you. It’s a perfect storm. 

The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall is OUT NOW on DVD and Blu-Ray

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Alexander Hay

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