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.