Dreams can come true, kids.
When Trista Moldovan was 12, she went to see the Broadway musical “Phantom of the Opera” at Playhouse Square Center in Cleveland and was captivated.
“I was totally hooked on musical theater after that,” she recalls. “I bought the double cassette tape (of ‘Phantom’) and listened to it religiously in my bedroom. I knew all the words.”
Eighteen years later, having graduated from Brunswick High School and the Baldwin-Wallace conservatory of Music, Moldovan is starring as Christine in the national touring company of “Phantom,” which arrives Wednesday at Playhouse Square Center.
“It’s crazy, isn’t it?” she says of her triumphant hometown return.
Tim Martin Gleason has been living in the “Phantom” world since he joined the show’s national touring company in 2001. An ensemble member, he soon took over the role of dashing Raoul, playing the role on the road, on Broadway and in Las Vegas for more than 2,600 performances. And now, Gleason is portraying the show’s masked mystery, the Phantom himself.
“I never thought in a million years that I’d play the Phantom,” he says. “That was never on my radar.”
As the beauty-and-beast duo at the center of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s phenomenally successful “Phantom of the Opera,” Moldovan and Gleason will be onstage at at Cleveland’s Allen Theatre through Aug. 22. I interviewed the co-stars via telephone on Tuesday. Excerpts follow.
Q. How did you land the role of Christine, Trista?
Moldovan: I auditioned for “Phantom,” and the next day they offered me a spot in the ensemble. Then, about three weeks after that, the Christine on Broadway left to take a materinity leave and they took the Christine from the tour to replace her, and they offered Christine to me. I climbed the ladder in a very short time.
Q. Can you relate personally to your character in “Phantom”?
Moldovan: Since I grew up listening to the music and being familiar with the story, Christine has been a part of me since I was a little girl. I can definitely identify with her. She has an incredible progression through the show. She starts off as this meek little Victorian woman and by the end, she has come into her own and found the courage to face the Phantom.
Gleason: I almost wish I wasn’t able to key into (the Phantom) so well. Not getting the girl is a pretty easy emotion for me to tap into. I wasn’t real good with the ladies in high school and I’m still learning as I go.
Q. What is your favorite scene in the show?
Moldovan: I love doing the final scene with Sean (McLaughlin), who plays Raoul, and Tim. It’s the climax of the show and everything comes to a head. I think it’s the most beautiful music in the production.
Gleason: The last scene is my favorite. It involves redemption, and it’s so well-written you just have to get on the train and hold on. It just takes you.
Q. How tough is it playing the Phantom?
Gleason: It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I feel like a ball player mid-season and I’m all banged up. Vocally, it really takes its toll. The Phantom doesn’t fit my voice so perfectly that I can wake up, have a Diet Coke and just start singing. I have to really get the vocal cords warmed up, especially when on tour when there’s two shows Saturday and two on Sunday. I’ve spent the last year building up stamina and learning to pace myself.
Q. How tough is the role of Christine?
Moldovan: At the end of the night, I feel like I’ve been put in a sack and beaten with a baseball bat. (Laughs) It’s physically demanding, mostly because you have to wear these dresses that weigh 30 pounds and you’re dancing in them and being thrown around in them plus running around in high heels for two and a half hours. The vocal aspect is like being shot out of a cannon. You start the first song and you don’t stop for the duration of the show.
Q. What’s it like working with Tim, Trista?
Moldovan: Tim is so much fun to work with, and he makes me feel so comfortable onstage. You need that comfort to be able to go to those kind of heightened emotions together. Plus, we’re both kind of goofballs.
Q. What’s it like working with Trista, Tim?
Moldovan: She is so great. As the Phantom, you’re so isolated. She’s my lifeline to the rest of the show. We goof around backstage all the time.
Q. How do you get ready for a performance?
Gleason: My makeup takes about an hour, but its kind of a nice thing to be honest, to sit in a chair for an hour and sit. There’s no choice but to meditate a bit and relax. It’s built-in preparation for the show. No matter what kind of day you’ve had or mood you’re in, it’s a nice buffer.
Moldovan: I get to the theater about an hour before curtain. I just like to relax, get focused. After I get into hair and makeup, and do my vocal and physical warmup, then I’m good to go.
Q. How do you take care of your singing voice?
Moldovan: By forcing myself to live like a nun for the last two years! (Laughs) I’ve had to give up my vices. I have to be careful about talking too much during the day, and I can’t exert myself too much, especially if we have two shows.
Q. What do you do during intermission?
Gleason: I usually check my e-mail, and I play Angry Birds on my iPhone. I like to go into Trista’s dressing room and bust her chops about anything.
Moldovan: I just got an iPhone and my favorite thing to do is this game called Fruit Ninja. It’s so therapeutic. (Laughs) It kind of focuses your mind on one thing so you don’t get too distracted.
Q. This show has such diehard fans. What is it about “Phantom” anyway?
Moldovan: It’s such a great piece of theater, such a great spectacle, and of course the music. From the moment the lights come up, the audience is sucked into this world that’s very mysterious and alluring, and you have them for two and a half hours. People can relate to the character of the Phantom. It’s a story about unrequited love, and it’s always fun to root for the underdog.
Gleason: Some people have seen it 40 or 50 times. When a show’s been running this long, you get all kinds of people at the stage door, which makes it neat and exciting. Some say, “I hate theater and I was dragged here and I can’t believe how much I loved it.” We get people bringing their kids to the show because first they saw it 20 years ago and he proposed to her afterward.
Q. This is being billed as the final tour of “Phantom.” I’m not sure I believe that.
Moldovan: It’s the final Broadway national tour. It’s the last time Cleveland will ever be able to see an exact replica of what is on Broadway. There will be other incarnations, but the show will never be as spectacular as it is now.
Gleason: This tour, which is a replica of the Broadway production, has been running 18 years nonstop, and this is the last time it’s going to be in Cleveland. But “Phantom” is never going away.
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Posted: 7 Aug 2010 14:03 Updated: 7 Aug 2010 14:03
Joined: 3 Aug 2010
wow oh wow, that's great! It is my life long dream to play as Christine. I just hope it will come true, like for Trista. Congrats Trista!
Posted: 20 Apr 2013 8:35 Updated: 20 Apr 2013 8:35
The Blond Christine
Joined: 20 Apr 2013
I only discovered Phantom a year ago. I'd love to play Christine, but I would prefer seeing different versions of the show with different singers. I would love to see you guys on stage!