Broadway Veteran Returns to Kennedy Center as Phantom in Webber Revue

By Chris Klimek
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, December 19, 2008

Maybe you've heard: Julie Taymor, the Tony Award-winning director of "The Lion King," plans to stage "Spider-Man" on Broadway, with music by Bono and the Edge. At age 47, actor Ron Bohmer is, to his dismay, 20 years too old to audition for the role of Peter Parker. It's a tough business, show business.

"I was on tour with 'High School Musical' this summer, and several of the guys in that show tried out for it," Bohmer, a veteran stage actor and comic-book geek, says from his home in West Orange, N.J. His neighborhood is a quiet suburb a half-hour's drive from the Great White Way, where he has earned his living for the better part of 25 years. "I've been hammering my agent to get me in for [an audition]. I'd love to play the Green Goblin."

Until that call comes, Bohmer will have to be content to play another of the great tragic baddies in pop culture: the Phantom of the Opera. Bohmer has sung the role many times, and it's one of several to which he'll lend his voice when "The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber" returns to the Kennedy Center for a two-week run starting Tuesday.

The show, a best-of from the man who could be called musical theater's Steven Spielberg, last played the Kennedy Center in 2004; Webber revises the set list each time the revue tours. Among the shows best represented in the latest version are "Phantom," "Sunset Boulevard" and "Evita," along with songs from "Starlight Express" and "Woman in White" and an orchestral suite from "Aspects of Love." All in all, audiences can expect almost 2 1/2 hours of music.

After more than a year on the road as Coach Bolton in "High School Musical," Bohmer is eager to return to the Webber material. "What makes his stuff fun to sing is what makes it fun to watch," he says. "Andrew is very into what I think of as vocal pyrotechnics: He gets you singing from the very bottom of your range to the very top of your range, and it's very athletic singing. It really is a workout."

Although Bohmer may no longer be eligible to try on Spidey's red-and-blue tights, getting older is not without its advantages. As a singer, he says, "your instrument is constantly changing. I actually sing higher now than I did when I was younger, which is to my benefit singing Andrew Lloyd Webber. Some of the stuff that was harder for me to sing in my 30s is easier now."

It was in the Kennedy Center Opera House that Bohmer first donned the Phantom's mask, in 1998. (Things worked out better for him than for his scarred alter ego: He ended up marrying Sandra Joseph, who played Christine, the object of the Phantom's obsession, in that production.)

This go-round, Bohmer says, he's looking forward to the revue's more stripped-down elements -- specifically, the luxury of performing in "just" a tuxedo.

"It's a heck of a lot easier to sing the role of the Phantom in concert, when you're not wearing a bald cap and 10 pounds of makeup and a mask on top of a mask and two wigs on your head."

The Music Of Andrew Lloyd Webber Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater, 2700 F St. NW. 202-467-4600 or Tuesday through Jan. 4. $25-$150.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company