Mauer has risen from `Phantom' extra to its star

Extended for two weeks at the Hippodrome

Stage: Theater, Music, Dance

August 12, 2004|By Sarah Breitenbach | Sarah Breitenbach,SUN STAFF

Night after night, Gary Mauer does the same thing. He takes a steamy shower, dons a thick layer of makeup, says a prayer and then bellows to the rafters of theaters across the country. It never gets old.

For Mauer, who plays the title character in the U.S. tour of The Phantom of the Opera, every show in each city he visits is an experience that makes his job seem more like a hobby.

"In general, the audiences in the cities we go to are really, really hungry for the show," he says.

That hunger for the musical adaptation of Gaston Leroux's tale of the 19th-century Paris Opera House haunted by a disfigured composer led to two weeks of additional performances on the Baltimore leg of the tour, which opened yesterday at the Hippodrome Theatre.

Mauer is starring in the tour after playing Raoul, the Phantom's adversary, on Broadway.

During the two-and-a-half-hour production, the Phantom vies for the love of Christine Daae, a young soprano at the opera house.

But off stage Mauer doesn't have to battle for Christine's love - because she's his wife. Actress Elizabeth Southard is the alternate for the Christine character and performs in Saturday matinee and Sunday evening shows.

"It's wonderful," Mauer says of performing with Southard. "She's a terrific Christine. There's a trust when you're up there with your life partner."

Southard and Mauer's two children, Nicholas, 6, and Eden, 4, are accompanying their parents on the tour.

Mauer has a long history with the production. He first served as a swing, then played Raoul and, after two months as a Phantom understudy, took on the lead role.

While the vocal range for the Phantom is similar to Raoul's, Mauer says he enjoys portraying the more dynamic Phantom, appealing to the audience's emotions.

"People, when they're sitting out there watching this guy, they remember those feelings of being an outcast, even if it was for just a moment," he says.

"I think you remember the things that hurt more than you remember the things that feel good."

Just as the audience relates to his character, Mauer feels like there's a little bit of Phantom in him as well.

"I'm like him because I'm very passionate, I love music. He is so into his own music as a composer, but I haven't killed anybody recently. That's where the similarities end," he jokes.

"The Phantom of the Opera" will play through Oct. 3. The Hippodrome Theatre is at 12 N. Eutaw St. Show times vary. For ticket information, call 410-547-SEAT or visit www.france-merrickpac.com.

For more theater, classical music and dance events, see Page 35.

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