Phantom of the Opera: Principal cast changes announced

Principal cast changes have been announced for the longest-running show in Broadway history, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.

Kyle Barisich will take over the romantic leading role of 'Raoul' from 4 Jun 2011. A A current member of the Broadway cast and former member of the National Tour, Barisich previously played the role of 'Raoul' in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He succeeds current star Sean MacLaughlin, who’s played the role of Raoul over 800 times in New York and on the road combined.

Current Broadway cast member Michele McConnell will assume the role of 'Carlotta' from 11 Jul 2011. McConnell first joined the Ensemble of the Broadway cast in Feb 2010 and has covered the role of the tempestuous opera diva since May 2010. She assumes the role from Liz McCartney, who will play her final performance on 9 Jul 2011.

Former The Phantom of the Opera National Tour principal cast member Jessica Bishop (formerly Jessi Ehrlich) will step into the role of inquisitive ballerina 'Meg Giry,' from 4 Jul 2011. Bishop previously played the role on the National Tour from Apr 2008 to Feb 2010. She’ll be playing the role during a leave of absence for current cast member Heather McFadden, who will play her final performance on 2 Jul 2011. McFadden is scheduled to return to the production in January 2012.

Barisich is the fifteenth actor to be cast as 'Raoul' (not including understudies). He follows, in order and excluding return engagements: Steve Barton, Kevin Gray, Davis Gaines, Hugh Panaro, Keith Buterbaugh, Ciaran Sheehan, Brad Little, Gary Mauer, Jim Weitzer, Michael Shawn Lewis, John Cudia, Tim Martin Gleason, Ryan Silverman and Sean MacLaughlin.

McConnell is the fourteenth actress to have been cast as 'Carlotta 'in New York (not including understudies). She follows, in order and excluding return engagements: Judy Kaye, Marilyn Caskey, Elena Jeanne Batman, Geena Jeffries, Patricia Hurd, Kelly Ellenwood, Leigh Munro, Liz McCartney, Rebecca Eichenberger, Patricia Phillips, Julie Schmidt, Anne Runolfsson and Kim Stengel.

Bishop is the ninth actress to have been cast as 'Meg' in New York (not including understudies). She follows, in order and excluding return engagements: Elisa Heinsohn, Catherine Ulissey, Tener Brown, Geralyn Del Corso, Joelle Gates, Heather McFadden, Kara Klein and Polly Baird.

Continuing in their roles with the New York Company are Hugh Panaro (The Phantom), **Sara Jean Ford (Christine), George Lee Andrews (Monsieur André), David Cryer (Monsieur Firmin), Marilyn Caskey (Madame Giry) and Evan Harrington (Piangi).
**At certain performances Marni Raab plays 'Christine.'

The most successful stage musical of all time, the Cameron Mackintosh/Really Useful Group, Inc. production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, directed by Harold Prince, celebrated its 23rd anniversary on the Great White Way on 26 Jan 2011.

In addition to its longevity records, The Phantom of the Opera is also the most successful stage musical of all time, with worldwide grosses to date estimated in excess of $5 billion. The winner of seven 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the New York production has played over 9,700 performances, been seen by nearly 14.3 million people and grossed over $812 million.

Worldwide, over 65,000 performances of The Phantom of the Opera have been seen by 100 million people in 27 countries and 144 cities. There are currently six productions around the world: London, New York, Budapest (Hungary), Nagoya (Japan), Seoul (Korea) and a revised production in Las Vegas at The Venetian. The original cast-recording, with over 40 million copies sold worldwide, is the best-selling cast recording of all time.

The Phantom of the Opera opened at the Majestic on 26 Jan 1988, following previews from 9 Jan, and went on to sweep the 1988 Tony Awards, winning seven, including Best Musical.

Based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it. He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command.

The Phantom of the Opera has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is directed by Harold Prince. Lyrics are by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe) and the book is by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The show's roduction design is by the late Maria Björnson, with lighting by Andrew Bridge and sound by Martin Levan. Musical staging and choreography is by Gillian Lynne. Orchestrations are by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Michele McConnell
as CarlottaKyle Barisich
as Raoul