When you play the same iconic role on Broadway for six years straight, the title tends to stick with you. Though 16 years have passed since Franc D’Ambrosio took his final bow as the title character in “The Phantom of the Opera” in San Francisco, he still pays homage to that work in his solo show.
In “Hollywood: Songs of the Silver Screen,” D’Ambrosio performs an autobiographical, two-act show of selections from “Les Miserables,” Fred Astaire and of course, “Phantom.” These songs are seen and performed through the eyes of a young Italian boy in New York City as he watches music change his life, D’Ambrosio said.
Though he is best known for his portrayal of the “Phantom,” D’Ambrosio made his Broadway debut in “Sweeney Todd” and played the role of Anthony Vito Corleone in “The Godfather III.”
D’Ambrosio, now 51, splits his time between New York City and San Francisco when he’s not traveling the United States and South America on tour.
On Friday, D’Ambrosio talked with the News-Sentinel about the famous role and what it’s like to sing for a living.
What’s it like being known for such an iconic role?
It’s a title that I embrace, because there are few, if any, shows as well-loved, well-received and well-attended as “The Phantom of the Opera.” To hold this title, it’s something I embrace. But I wanted to make sure I wasn’t pigeonholed or typecast, so my next role was as a song and dance man in “Copacabana.”
How did you get the role?
I was on Broadway, in the final rounds of auditioning for the lead in “Miss Saigon.” After singing, the casting director said, “You’re not right for this part, but we’re wondering if you’re interested in doing Phantom.” Of course, I said yes.
What’s the most stressful part of a Broadway run?
Like in any kind of business, there’s a succession of stressful moments throughout the day. When I was doing “Phantom,” we did eight shows in six days. I was 29 years old and basically living a monastic lifestyle that would ensure an opening night, quality performance every night.
To me, it’s about loving and respecting your audience. They are coming in to see me, and it’s my job to give 100 percent.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue singing as a career?
As a career, when I was 16 or 17. The first time I actually knew I could sing, I was eight or nine. I was one of those small bodies with big voices like you see on the talent shows these days. It was ridiculous.
What steps do you take to keep your voice in shape?
I studied with Pavarotti, one of the great tenors. He said, “If you have to stop living to sing, stop singing.”
So many people can really get preoccupied with “I can’t drink water with ice,” or “I can’t step outside in the wind.” I have a very good balance in being able to live a life and sing.
I am absolutely careful. If I have a show that night, I prep the day to give 100 percent that night. But on my days off, I live.
Contact Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.