We speak to the main cast of the hit musical, Phantom of the Opera, to find out their thoughts and experiences from the roles they play.

Istana Budaya is set to transform into the Palais Garnier this June 15 till July 7, as it sets the scene for the dark and mystifying Phantom of the Opera, which opens in Malaysia for the very first time. Based on the novel of Gaston Leroux, Andrew Lloyd Webber's most famous musical tells the tale of an almost mythical character that terrorises the Parisian opera house. Drama unfolds as the Phantom becomes enraptured (and obsessed) by the upcoming talent, Christine Daaé, who also happens to be in love with a nobleman and her childhood friend, Raoul de Chagny.

We spoke to Jonathan Roxmouth, Meghan Picerno and Matt Leisy who respectively portray the Phantom, Christine and Raoul to find out what they have to say about their characters.

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Above Jonathan Roxmouth is the Phantom

The Phantom (Isn't A) Menace

This isn't the first time that Jonathan Roxmouth plays the titular character – he reprises the role after first playing it in 2012 in South Africa. "It's one of the most challenging and heartbreaking yet rewarding role. There's a lot of pressure perfoming such an iconic character; the audience often have a mindset on how the Phantom should be portrayed, so there's a smaller margin for error," shares Jonathan. Plus, on top of that, the Phantom challenges (toxic) masculinity, as he is all about showing emotion. "Men don't usually cry, yet there's this strong character who sobs and isn't ashamed of it," he adds.

And while the Phantom does cross the line of love, "he is essentially a product of a society that is fundamentally broken; he does some bad things, but is not inherently evil," says Jonathan, who gets defensive whenever people ask him 'what's it like to play the villain in the show?' "The Phantom has so much to offer, as an artist, and yet the people around only view him as a monster." Jonathan then relates this behaviour to the modern day, saying that bullying (like that via social media) can affect one's character too, as it's much easier for "poison to reach you than praise."

Demure, Daring Daaé

Soprano Meghan Picerno first played Christine Daaé in the Phantom sequel Love Never Dies. She shares a number of similar traits with her character – the main one being that they both live for music. And despite hailing from the world of opera, she transitioned well into the realm of musical theatre. "There's also a shift in Christine, throughout the show; she grows from being a girl to a woman. At first she willingly gives her power away to (both) men, but makes a choice in the end," shares Meghan who tries her best to empower other women.

Meghan, who is looking forward to presenting the beautiful piece that is so iconic and universal to Malaysians, takes her role very seriously, not only because of the legacy and tradition that is tied to it, but also because she views it as a platform to be a role model. "You communicate with young fans and you never know who you may inspire," says the lady who still recalls seeing her first musical, Les Misérables. When asked what she learnt from Christine, Meghan replied, "It is to love; if we made decisions based on love instead of fear, we would live in a very different world."

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Above Meghan Picerno plays Christine Daaé
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Above Matt Leisy portrays Raoul de Chagny

Raoul Against The Ghoul

"Raoul gets everything easily in life, and then is presented with a challenge in the form of Christine; it is then that he becomes less selfish, as he falls in love; there's character growth. I feel he represents more of the romantic side of the show. One of my takeaways from the story is to let yourself fall in love. I think most people are a bit more cautious the second time, and they don't fully fall in love as they did the first time. It reminds me to just go with it when it feels right, don't second guess it or find reasons not to fully commit," shares Matt Leisy.

Matt also shared that he has never been in a show that affects viewers the way Phantom of the Opera does. "Literally every day we would get contacted by people over social media. Most would tell us how special the evening was for them, or how they would remember it forever. Occasionally we do get some critiques as well, people who notice minute things, like a pole dropping when it shouldn't. But it's the positive comments which fuel us, and keep us wanting to give our best performance night after night."

The Phantom of the Opera opens this Saturday, June 15 at Istana Budaya and runs till July 7. Pick up a copy of our June issue to get a more in-depth look at what it takes to get the beautiful production on stage. Purchase tickets from the official site here.

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