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Actor Spotlight: Ali Ewoldt of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’

Category Actor Spotlight

|by Jeryl Brunner |

From Yale to Broadway, meet Ali Ewoldt

Meet Ali Ewoldt, the Yale University graduate who plays Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera and stars opposite phantom James Barbour. The long-running Andrew Lloyd Webber hit musical is now in its 29th year on Broadway. 


Ali Ewoldt as Christine and James Barbour as The Phantom (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Ali Ewoldt as Christine and James Barbour as The Phantom (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

What qualities do you love about Christine?
Ali Ewoldt:
 I love how open Christine is. She hears a voice in her dressing room and instead of screaming and running away, she lets it teach her how to sing. She sees a man in a mask and yearns to know what is underneath. And once she learns what is underneath, she yearns to understand the heart and soul of this person. And it is because of this openness that she teaches a man, who many would call a monster, how to love.

And the show has such a long running history. 
I love being a part of Phantom’s history. To perform on the same stage and sing the same songs that tremendous soprano leading ladies have been singing for almost 30 years feels very special. Also, so many people tell me at the stage door that this is their first Broadway musical. I love being many people's introduction to Broadway and hope that they've enjoyed themselves at our show enough to come see many more Broadway shows.

Can you share the challenge of doing such a rigorous show? 
There are so many challenges! Obviously, she is very vocally demanding. Beyond that, the costumes are very heavy and there is a surprising amount of physical activity (dancing, running up and down stairs, climbing ladders, etc.) Christine also experiences a lot of emotional stress as a character and my body definitely feels the physiological effects of that. 

When did you first discover the musical? 
I first saw The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway with my parents and brother when I was ten years old. I remember exactly where we sat. But I was already aware of the music by then. "Think of Me" was probably the first solo I ever sang in public. It was during a cruise ship talent show! 

Was there a point where you knew you had to be a performer?
I fell in love with musical theater pretty early on. I loved watching movie musicals (Oklahoma!, State Fair, A Chorus Line, etc.) and my small public high school put on amazing shows. I remember watching the high school production of West Side Story when I was in middle school and seeing Tracy Fischetti play Maria and and desperately wanting to be like her someday. She is no longer a performer but she recently came to see Phantom and I totally geeked out. 

Around that time I did my first and only professional show as a kid, the Yeston/Kopit Phantom and fell even deeper in love with musical theater.  My role was very minor, so I would spend most of my time backstage watching these awesome professional actors and trying to learn from them. I also started taking voice lessons around this time and continued to participate in the awesome musicals at my small public high school. BUT, I knew that acting was a very, very difficult profession so I went to college with the hope of finding something else that I was similarly passionate about while performing on the side. Clearly that failed!

When did you know that you could sing?
Oh goodness, I have no idea. My family members were always making me sing at gatherings and I got a very positive response from that cruise ship talent show performance of "Think of Me" – ha! I guess being a person who sings has been a part of my identity for as long as I can remember.

What is one of your favorite songs to sing? 
“Almost First Kiss" from Carner & Gregor's musical Unlock'd has become my go-to warm-up song. I love singing it and I'm sure my neighbors know all the words by now.

You auditioned to be Christine many times for years until you finally landed the role. What gave you the drive not to give up? 
It was definitely difficult to audition so many times for Phantom without being cast for so many years. Every time, despite my best efforts, I would get my hopes up and imagine what it would be like to book the job and then be crestfallen when it didn't happen. But in my heart I knew it was a role I could really bring something special to, so I kept trying. My literal reaction when I found out I had finally booked it was, "Um...are you SURE??”

I love that you went to Yale! What inspired you to get a BA in psychology? 
I was initially drawn to psychology because of its connection to acting. Both are about understanding why people do the things that they do. I have a great curiosity about people and what motivates their behavior. And I think that has served me both in my psychology studies and my career. 

How do you love to spend a day off? 
On a typical day off I'll get acupuncture and a massage, relax with my dog Mia Belle, have dinner with friends and lately, since Sundays are my day off, watch Game of Thrones!

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