‘Phantom’ appears on local stage

A clas­sic per­form­ance: The Phantom of the Op­era comes to the Academy of Mu­sic through April 12.

It is the longest-run­ning show in Broad­way his­tory by a wide mar­gin, cel­eb­rat­ing its 10,000th Broad­way per­form­ance in 2012.

And now, the spec­tac­u­lar new pro­duc­tion of The Phantom of the Op­era comes to the Academy of Mu­sic through April 12. Based on the French nov­el by Gaston Ler­oux, its cent­ral plot re­volves around a beau­ti­ful sop­rano, Christine Daae, who be­comes the ob­ses­sion of a mys­ter­i­ous dis­figured mu­sic­al geni­us.

This time around, South Jer­sey nat­ive Ju­lia Ud­ine stars as Christine.

“And what a won­der­ful feel­ing to come home and play to a ho­met­own audi­ence,” she says. “It def­in­itely makes it all much easi­er for me, know­ing the people I love are out there, sup­port­ing me no mat­ter what hap­pens. It feels great.”

Twenty-year-old Ud­ine says she’s been dan­cing since she was 3, ap­pear­ing in her first show at age 7, and all she ever wanted to do was be a per­former. And here she is today tak­ing a star­ring role in one of the most pop­u­lar pro­duc­tions of all time.

“Ini­tially, after high school, I went to Penn State for one semester but left when I felt it wasn’t for me. When I was 18, I moved to New York, got in­volved with a dance stu­dio while tak­ing act­ing and voice les­sons, too. Through the stu­dio, I did some mock au­di­tions for a few man­agers and cast­ing agents. I fi­nally got an agent and here I am,” she says.

“And I am ab­so­lutely thrilled to be here in this show, without feel­ing any pres­sure what­so­ever. Even though I’m young, I am part of a very sup­port­ive group of fam­ily and friends so I feel more grate­ful than any­thing else.

“Of course,” she con­tin­ues, “every­one gets open­ing night jit­ters. But once you get out on stage, in­to char­ac­ter, and face all the oth­er act­ors who are there to sup­port you, everything’s just great.”

Tak­ing the lead role of Christine has al­ways been one of Ud­ine’s dreams.

“She’s a char­ac­ter I can eas­ily re­late to. She’s a dan­cer, and I grew up dan­cing my whole life. She lost her fath­er when she was just 14, and al­though I still have my fath­er and en­joy a won­der­ful re­la­tion­ship with him, I am able to put my­self in a po­s­i­tion of won­der­ing what I would feel if I lost him. All this helps get me through her emo­tion­al jour­ney. I’m able to put my­self in her shoes in a num­ber of ways, and in the end I think it all works.”

In de­scrib­ing the cur­rent pro­duc­tion, Ud­ine in­sists the story is the same we’ve all grown to love.

“But we have com­pletely new sta­ging, new sets, even new light­ing design. We have a brand new cre­at­ive team, and I like to think that in this ver­sion we ap­proach the char­ac­ters from a real point of view, fo­cus­ing on the lush lyr­ics, which, after all, are the most im­port­ant part of the show. So it’s all the same story, we just ap­proach it in a dif­fer­ent way.”

Ud­ine signed on for this show for one year. After that, she says, she’ll see what hap­pens. But if there is an­oth­er dream role in her fu­ture, it would be to play Maria in West Side Story. Ud­ine played Maria in high school and ad­mits she’d love to do it again on a pro­fes­sion­al level.

And if she has any ad­vice for oth­ers who would love to fol­low in her foot­steps, it is simple: “Stay humble and be nice to every­one around you be­cause there are al­ways oth­ers out there who can do what you do. So aside from study­ing hard and be­ing pre­pared, just learn to be your­self.” ••

For times and tick­et in­form­a­tion, call 215-731-3333. 

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