Behind the Curtain: Phantom of the Opera

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA 3 - The Company performs Masquerade - photo by Alastair Muir

By Madelyn Olsen – Graphic Designer

Hannah Florence always wanted to do nothing but perform. From ballet classes as a child to the musical stage, Florence has done her fair share of performances and now stars as Meg Giry in “Phantom of the Opera” at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

A graduate of New York University with a degree in musical theatre, Florence previously showcased her talents with roles in various musicals such as “Scandalous,” “It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman” and “Where’s Charley?” in New York City.

“I’ve just always loved to perform ever since I was a kid,” Florence said in an interview with the Torch. “It’s just always been something I’ve loved to do, and I’ve been lucky.”

In “Phantom of the Opera,” Florence stars as Meg Giry, the daughter of Madame Giry. Meg is the one who pushes leading character Christine into the leading role of the opera and acts as Christine’s close friend and confidant throughout the story.

Florence’s transformation into Meg requires a lot of physical preparations and warm ups.

“Technically, I have to be warmed up physically because she’s in all the dance numbers,” Florence said. “[There’s] physical warm up ballet class or yoga, as well as having to warm up vocally.”

There’s even a hair color change Florence has to undergo to fully transform into Meg.

“Someone comes in and puts my wig on, usually 15 minutes before showtime,” Florence explained. “I’m a natural brunette, but blonde in the show. … The wig helps me get into character as Meg.”

Apart from the physical preparation, Florence also mentally prepares herself for each scene to achieve the right effect for her character.

“I try to kind of remember my intentions for each scene,” she said. “And [I] think about my arc throughout the show, [and] write down my inner monologue [and] subtext throughout the scene to remind myself who I am and what I’m doing and how I’m helping to tell the story of the bigger picture.”

Florence says she is enjoying the new take this production of the classic “Phantom of the Opera” has and explained the differences in the characterization of Meg.

“Our version of Meg is kind of less afraid of her mother than in other productions,” she said. “I’m kind of always being a little defiant [as Meg], like a lot of teenage girls not listening to their mothers. Meg is portrayed as almost a little more of a busybody and maybe a little more playful.”

Drawing on herself, Florence confessed that she shares many similarities with Meg, such as how she “tends to speak without thinking, [and] she sort of speaks out of turn a few times.”

Florence also spoke of how she is able to take what she has learned as an actress and apply it to her everyday life.

“In the theatre, you have to depend on a lot of people for the show to, like, not fall apart,” she said. “You can’t do anything on your own — like the wig — and trust that the dresser will be there for the quick change. … And I think that’s a really great learning experience because its great to learn and know that you can’t do everything on your own, and its important to trust your coworkers and your friends.”

Reflecting on her time with the show so far, Florence said she especially loves the opening sequence of “Phantom.”

“I think my favorite part in the whole show [is] the entire opening sequence,” she said. “It’s chilling, breathtaking, majestic and totally epic and grand.”

Florence explained her thrill at the opportunity to play Meg and said that she never thought she would be cast in a production such as “Phantom.” She also shared her favorite things about Meg, including the fact that she’s “fearless and very curious, and she’s a little bit sassy.”

While the show’s production runs until March, she is already looking to the future with a positive attitude.

“[My] goal is to just be in New York and to kind of just do whatever projects come my way,” she said. “I want to keep performing in musical theatre.”

Florence and the rest of the “Phantom of the Opera” cast will perform at Cadillac Palace Theatre until March 2.

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