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Phantom of the Opera: Hugh Panaro & Sara Jean Ford return

Hugh Panaro and Sara Jean Ford return to the longest-running show in Broadway history, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera.

Hugh Panaro returns to the title role of the 'The Phantom' on 7 Sep 2010, assuming the role from John Cudia.

Panaro has a long association with The Phantom of the Opera and is one of the few actors to have been cast as both 'The Phantom' and 'Raoul' in the Broadway production. He first joined the New York cast in December 1990 as 'Raoul,' a role he would play for over two years and more than 900 performances. In February 1999 he was invited to take over the title role. With over 1,000 performances as 'The Phantom,' he's so far performed in over 2,000 performances of the Broadway production.

Former Phantom National Tour star Sara Jean Ford will take over the leading role of 'Christine' in the Broadway production, also beginning performances on 7 Sep 2010, assuming the role from Jennifer Hope Wills.

Ford originally made her Phantom (and Broadway) debut with the New York Company in March 2007 as the 'Mirror Bride' and covering the role of 'Christine.' In September 2007 she took over the role of 'Christine' on the National Tour, playing it for nearly a year.

Panaro was the tenth of the twelve men cast as Broadway's 'Man Behind the Mask.' Ms. Ford is the fourteeth actress to be cast as 'Christine' in the Broadway production.

The Phantom of the Opera currently stars Hugh Panaro (The Phantom), Sara Jean Ford (Christine Daae - played by Marni Raab at some performances), Ryan Silverman (Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny), George Lee Andrews (Monsieur Andre), David Cryer (Monsieur Firmin), Patricia Phillips (Carlotta Giudicelli), Cristin J. Hubbard (Madame Giry), Evan Harrington (Ubaldo Piangi) and Heather McFadden (Meg Giry).

A long-time romantic lead on Broadway, Hugh Panaro's other credits include the title role in 'Lestat,' 'Buddy' in 'Side Show,' 'Gaylord Ravenal' in Harold Prince's production of 'Showboat,' 'Julian' in 'The Red Shoes,' 'Marius' in the original production of 'Les Misérables' and the title role in the American premiere of the Cameron Mackintosh production of 'Martin Guerre.'

Sara Jean Ford's other Broadway credits include the current Broadway revival of 'A Little Night Music' as 'Mrs. Anderson' and 'Finian's Rainbow' as 'Arlene.' Off-Broadway, she starred as 'Louisa' in the new production of 'The Fantasticks' and can be heard on the original revival cast recording. She's appeared in 'Wicked' in Chicago (Glinda/Nessarose cover), as 'June' in 'Anyone Can Whistle' at City Center for Encores! and originated the role of 'Nellie Oleson' in the national tour of 'Little House on the Prairie-The Musical.'

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 9000th performance on Broadway on 17 Sep 2009 and its 22nd anniversary on 26 Jan 2010.

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 9,300 performances, been seen by nearly 14 million people and grossed over $780 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 seven productions around the world: London, New York, Budapest (Hungary), Nagoya (Japan), Seoul (Korea), the U.S. National Tour (which concludes its run in November 2010) 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.

Hugh Panaro as The PhantomSara Jean Ford as Christine

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