Kieran Brown is currently understudying the title role in the West End production of The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Most recently Kieran played Elphaba’s Father and understudied The Wizard and Dr. Dillamond in Wicked (Apollo Victoria).
Just a few of his credits also include: understudy Raoul in Love Never Dies (Adelphi), Les Misérables (Palace/25th Anniversary Concert at the O2), Before the Night Is Through (Landor), Tick, Tick… Boom! (Vienna), Pipe Dream (Union), The Phantom in Maury Yeston’s Phantom (Ye Olde Rose and Crown), Tony Christie/Elton John in Laughter in the Rain (UK tour) and The Thorn Birds (UK tour).
Kieran speaks to West End Frame about landing his dream show, his memories of his first Phantom performance, as well as what other projects are keeping him busy at the moment plus much, much more…
How is life in Phantom?
It’s really great thank you! Sometimes I still can’t quite believe I’m there to be honest! I’m hugely proud to be associated with the show.
Was it always one of your dream shows?
Oh definitely. I saw it at the Edinburgh Playhouse in 1991 and I fell in love with it. I used to listen to the cast recording every night before I went to sleep. It’s a show I’ve wanted to do for such a long time, and have come close to doing a couple of times before but I guess the timing wasn’t right then. I was actually with West End Wilma talking about how I was a knock back or two away from taking a break for a while – no idea what I would do instead though – when I got the call to say I had been offered the job of cover Phantom. I was sure it was going to be a no. That was a good night [laughs].
Why do you think audiences still adore Phantom and go back to see it time and time again? What is its secret?
I think at the heart of it, it’s just such a brilliant and beautifully told story. Coupled with an iconic score, the show is full of the most glorious melodies and orchestrations and it looks so lush and spectacular. The attention to detail is second to none from every department - music, direction, the corps de ballet, props, stage management, wigs, costume - my Phantom suit was made from scratch and every single item is meticulosity fitted. They really don’t make them like that any more.
What’s the atmosphere like backstage? What is everyone like to work with?
Sounds like a cliché, but Her Majesty’s Theatre really is like a, sometimes eccentric, big family. We all get on great and there is a rapport between all the departments and a lot of laughs and things going on - Phan-tombola, Cake Sales, Christmas Fayre, Halloween Spectacular etc. Whereas some shows really have a divide between actors/crew, there really isn’t that at Phantom, which was made apparent from our very first meet and greet day. We are all one big team, and there are genuinely no dramas.
The cast of The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom is obviously such an incredibly iconic role! What are your memories of your first Phantom performance? Were you able to take any of it in?
To be very honest it went by in a bit of a blur. I did feel a bit disconnected from it until the very end. Taking that bow represented a massive tick in my to-do list. I had several friends in watching and my parents managed to get down from Scotland which meant the world to me. The company were so supportive, especially Harriet Jones (Christine). I think I kept pinching myself to make sure it was actually happening to begin with, and then it was over!
What about now? It’s such a big sing, roles don’t come much bigger for men working in musical theatre!
I still find myself in the mirror behind the dressing room occasionally having to check myself and reminding myself that I do know the words. Then you just have to kick in and shut everything else out. It takes a while for him to appear but when the Phantom is revealed in the mirror, the whole ride up until the end of the first lair scene is so fast and intense; you just have to focus and stay with it. It’s been great watching Geronimo, Scott, and for a few shows, Earl Carpenter, each bring their own unique take on the role. I don’t think I’ve quite found my Phantom yet but I’m enjoying exploring new things each time I do get on.
Tell me about the upcoming cycle!
[laughs] Well, just to be clear, I’m not actually doing the cycle - I’m just sort of managing them and their fundraising, social media etc! On Saturday 9th May, five of our company members, Richard Munday (cover Raoul), Tim Morgan (Don Atillio), Tim Laurenti (Lefevre), Ryan O’Gorman (Swing) and Simon Cheney (Trumpeter) are cycling more than 250 miles after a two show day from the steps of Her Majesty’s to the steps of the Paris Opera House – where our story is set – in order to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Care. It’s an amazing undertaking for a worthy charity. We are having a send-off for them after the show with a Dixie band, some food & drink etc after the second show with the boys leaving stage door at 10.30pm. The aim is to raise £5000, though we hope to raise more. We are getting so close but still need people to donate. They can do that by visiting www.justgiving.com/PhantomCharityCycle or texting TTRR86 and the amount they want to donate to 70070.
What else is coming up for you at the moment?
I’ve got quite a few things coming up actually - I like to keep myself busy… sometimes a bit too busy [laughs]. I recently recorded a song called ‘Harry’s Dream’ for a new album of works by lyricist Lesley Ross - Love, Lies Lyrics which has just been released by Sim G records. On 10th May I’ll be performing at Battersea Barge for my good friend lyricist Robert Gould who is presenting a second concert of his works, More Words Shared With Friends, alongside some fantastic people – the gorgeous Caroline Maitand (WEF Understudy of the Year winner for Miss Saigon), who I’m duetting one song with, Michael Coulbourne (Les Miserables), Emma Kingston (In The Heights), Shaun McCourt (War Horse) and many more.
|Geronimo Rauch & Harriet Jones|
Then aren’t you doing something with The Three Phantoms?
Yes, on 17th May I’m heading to Cardiff as one of The Three Phantoms in aid of Welsh Hearts Charity. Nic Greenshields, Micheal Sterling and I are the the Phantoms, with special guests including Louise Dearman and Katy Trehearne joining us. That’s at Cardiff City Hall. I’m also involved with the inception of The Boys Of the Barricade. It’s described as “Il Divo meets Michael Buble with a touch of West End charm”. It’s a new concept devised by Scott Garnham and produced by Scott and Simon Schofield. The website has just gone live and there will be something very special happening in July I can’t talk about just yet! We’ve recorded a few demo tracks which have been previewed online. There will be a lot more exciting things coming soon!
And then finally the Phantom cabaret sounds exciting!
TheatreMad Trust have asked me to put together a Phantom company cabaret at the Delfont Rooms which will be happening early in August and I am hoping to bring a full length version of my newest show, Once Upon A Song, which I performed at Lauderdale House in March when I find a venue and some time!
Right, I’m sending you to a desert island and you can take three musical theatre songs with you… which three are you going to take and why?
Ouch, this is hard…! Only three?! Damn! Ok. ‘Defying Gravity’ (from Wicked) – can I have a Rachel Tucker stage version please?! I would also take ‘One Day More’ (from Les Miserables), both songs hold very unique memories for me and still get me every time. Finally… ‘Dance With the Devil’ from Witches of Eastwick because it makes me smile and want to dance… which I can’t.
Have you had the chance to catch any other shows recently?
I only really get to see things few and far between. I saw Follies in Concert earlier this week. There were some sensational performances in there but I must admit to being left a bit cold. I saw Miss Saigon recently and was blown away as I expected to be. Sweeney Todd at Harringtons Pie Shop in Shaftesbury Avenue was probably one of the best things I’ve seen in ages. I’m seeing Closer To Heaven at my favourite fringe venue The Union Theatre at the weekend which I am very much looking forward to. Next on my list is Gypsy. I’ve always loved the score and can only imagine how wonderful Imelda Staunton is. I’d also like to see Memphis and Curious Incident as I’ve heard great things, and I’m very excited about Kinky Boots.
There’s so much support from theatre fans who will support all your different projects. What is it like to have that kind of support behind you?
It’s amazing. There were so many friendly faces at my Lauderdale House show and I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who came along to that or who comes to see the show. I wouldn’t be able to do it if it wasn’t for them! I always try to make some element of my cabarets a little bit different and involve the audience in some way. I think things like that make it more memorable and it’s my way of saying thank you.
Interview by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
The Phantom of the Opera is currently booking at Her Majesty's Theatre until Saturday 26th March 2016. Please visit www.thephantomoftheopera.com for further information and tickets.
Three Phantoms booking: www.welshhearts.org
Kieran's website: www.KieranBrown.com
Photo Credit 2-3: Johan-Persson