Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Julia Udine, a local Philadelphia area native (from Voorhees, NJ) who will be touring as Christine Daae of The Phantom of the Opera in a new production by Cameron MacKintosh. Edward Staudenmayer (Monsieur Andre) also joined us on the exclusive behind-the-scenes tour.
UPDATE: After seeing the show opening night (which took our breath away), Ed took us on another quick back-stage tour to allow my daughter to see the props. We were both in complete awe of all the pieces created for this new production, which was simply amazing itself. My take (and you can quote me): The new Phantom of the Opera majestically updates a classic tale without missing a beat of the original. Simply phenomenal.
Tickets for The Phantom of the Opera at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia (March 19-April 12) can be purchased through the website or by calling the box office at 215-731-3333.Here is my interview with Julia and some of the behind-the-scenes photos. I told Julia that a big focus of my writing comes from my own experience with teens and helping my kids follow their dreams and we talked about what she had done to follow her dreams which you can read below.
Julia: I started dancing when I was three years old. I started with ballet and then I ended up taking voice lessons when I was 9 or 10 years old and every week until now. Then, I went to high school and I graduated high school and went to Penn State for one semester for musical theater. I ended up leaving Penn State and moving to New York during winter break of my freshman year and kinda building my own curriculum and my own classes based on the studios I was most challenged by and loved the most. From there, I got an agent and now I am here.
Me: Is your family still in the Philadelphia-NJ area?
Julia: Yes, I am from Voorhees, NJ so my whole family lives there and they are so supportive and I am so grateful.
Me: Are they coming to the show this week?
Julia: I have people coming to every single show. Actually, today — this afternoon show, I have 200 students from my middle school taking a field trip to come here and then my voice teacher, the high school that she teaches at, is bringing quite a few students.
Me: [So I hear] you are booked for the next three years?
Julia: We are – those dates aren’t announced yet but we are on tour for quite a bit. I am only signed on for one year so far so after a year I can see if they want to keep me around or see what happens.(*humble giggles*) …. Kinda taking it day by day.
Me: On that note, what are some of the biggest stressors you find during a production like this?
Julia: You know, it’s always a challenge in the beginning of each city because it’s a new house and a new crew and that’s always a challenge; but it’s actually really exciting because you are teaching new people the show and moving new audiences. … and it’s awesome – I really enjoy it.
Me: When you are getting your start, there are always productions you do early on (high school, college) that you wish you could go back and do better. What was that for you?
Julia: Yes – West Side Story. It’s so funny that you say that because I say it all the time to my friends and family – “I wish I could just be Maria.” I did it in high school. I was at a community theater in Haddonfield actually and was in West Side Story as a senior and all I ever said was, again now, it’s definitely a dream role of mine.
Me: Had you seen this production [Phantom of the Opera] earlier in life?
Julia: Yes, I saw the original Broadway production when I was a lot younger and absolutely loved it and what’s really cool about being a part of this production is that it’s a new take on old characters.
Me: Is it a rewrite?
Julia: No, it’s not a rewrite, it’s the same story, the same music everything .. [but] new staging, new set, new lighting, new creative team. So, we are discovering different nuances in the characters. It’s very dark and very edgy and you see a lot of the story through Christine’s eyes which is really exciting for me. It’s cool because I don’t have any previous things affecting my performance now. … I am able to see the script for the first time and discover the character for the first time which is really exciting.
Me: What made you go out for the role?
Julia: I called my agent and I said I would love to audition. … She [Christine Daae] is a dancer and I really connect with that because I am also a dancer and have been dancing my whole life. It brings all my training together which is really great. In a lot of musicals, you don’t really see the soprano leading with a big, acting emotional journey and this show has such an emotional journey. There is so much going on in her life and every night I find new things in her character and so that’s kinda what drew me to her – that she has such an intense inner life.
Me: What do you draw on to find that [intensity]?
Julia: That’s what the rehearsal process if for. We were really fortunate in our rehearsal process with our director Laurence Connor. It was such a collaboration between actor and director and so we were able to find things to connect with and relate to the theme and build them and find what it really is about her that is so relatable. We did that with a lot of the characters. They are going through some real life things and really, really traumatic experiences. It’s a process you want the public and the audience to relate to. That was our challenge but also what we are doing.
Me: Have you ever done film or wanted to do film?
Julia: Yes, I have totally been open to film. I did a Law & Order SVU [Special Victim’s Unit] TV episode this past year and a couple episodes of All My Children … (that’s a web series now) so I am totally up into TV and film.
Me: But, do you prefer live?
I was trained in dancing and theater so that’s where I get my satisfaction. There is something really special about a live production, doing things in one take. That’s definitely where I get my artistic satisfaction.
Me: It feeds your soul.
Julia: Exactly, it feeds my soul.
Me: [Finally] if there was one leading man you would like to be opposite, who would that be?
Julia: Well,…. Actually there is Ramin Karimloo playing Jean Valjean that I would absolutely die to work with. I think he’s an extremely talented man. That would be really great. He has no idea who I am but … that would be really great.
ME: Thank you, Julia for your time and the interview!
Here is a trailer of the Phantom of the Opera 2014 North American Tour. This trailer has different performers than the one I met but it gives you the gist of the new set.