The Other Phantom: Robert Cuccioli

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by Benjamin Crossley-Marra


Although referring to Robert Cuccioli, as the ďprince of darknessĒ might be a stretch, the stage vet is used to the darker roles of Phantom (Yeston/Kopit) and Jekyll & Hyde. After a run of Man of La Mancha Cuccioli returns to the Westchester Broadway Theater to reprise the title role of The Phantom.

Described as a more ďhumanisticĒ and ďrealisticĒ approach to Gaston LeRouxís famous novel, Phantom will run with Cuccioli through Feb. 9. In-between shows, BroadwayWorld contributor Benjamin Crossley-Marra got the chance to ask Cuccioli about his feelings on gothic themes and directing vs. acting...

Benjamin Crossley-Marra:
What do you think it is about Gaston LeRoux's novel, ďThe Phantom of the Opera" that's caused it to be adapted in so many ways?

Robert Cuccioli:
A lot of the stories in the ďGothicĒ genre are based in deep psychology. Here is a character thatís disfigured facially and he is a person thatís looking for love, beauty and acceptance. I think that all of us (although not to his extreme) feel some part of that within us. I think a lot of the Gothic stories speak to people because they deal with emotions and themes that are timeless.

Do you feel Phantom is the most faithful adaptation?

The only other adaptation Iím familiar with is the Andrew Lloyd Webber version, although Iím aware of some other adaptations as well, but what I love about Phantom in particular is that itís a very human take on the legend. Itís not about some psychopathic creature lurking in the depths of the opera house. There are certain elements that are like that, but overall heís a very human character. The audience really knows who this man is and why he is the way he is and how he got disfigured. I think in this version itís easier to connect with the people, plus the music is just gorgeous and I think thatís something the audience loves as well.

Youíve played a few ďGothicĒ parts both in Jekyll & Hyde and Phantom, how do you personally identify with parts like these?

To some extent I identify with all the parts I play. Like I said before I can connect with the humanness of the Phantom character and likewise I identify with the duality in Jekyll & Hyde because thatís something in everybody. I donít think I identify with one part over another though.

You recently had your non-musical directing debut with The Glass Menagerie, what was that experience like for you?

Robert: It was the scariest thing Iíve ever done in my life! It was a play that I didnít know a whole lot about and from total scratch I tried to learn as much as I could about Tennessee Williams. I did a lot of research not only on he play but the actual history and time-period as well. It was very exciting project to do and I would love to continue doing in the future.

Benjamin: Will we be seeing a lot more plays directed by you in the near future?

Robert: I hope so, I would like to. Iím the kind of guy that like to keep my creativity flowing in many directions. Itís something that keeps me feeling alive and well rounded.

Benjamin: What do you look for in deciding whether or not you are going to do a play?

I always like to find something new, something fresh. I like helping in creatively structuring a play from the ground up and I think that what Iím ultimately looking for has not yet been written. But I enjoy taking on engaging, meaningful work that Iím proud of at the end of the day.

Benjamin: What advice do you have for aspiring young performers?

Robert: My advice would be to never stop learning. Find knowledge in every aspect of life, donít pigeonhole yourself talking about the theatre or trying to attain an encyclopedic knowledge of theatre, branch out and learn as much as you can about everything that you can because it will all come back to you later on in life. Everything you learn has its use so keep learning everyday. Keep your mind and your vistas wide.

Benjamin: Is there anybody youíd like to work with that you havenít gotten the chance to yet?

Robert: Thereís tons. Unfortunately whenever anybody asks me that the names just fly out of my mind, but there are a lot of people both in the United States and abroad that Iíd really look forward to working with.  

Whatís next for you after Phantom?

Robert: Thereís nothing thatís hit the ground yet. I have a couple of projects that Iím working on myself plus I may be returning to The Shakespeare Theatre in New Jersey this season but nothing is set in stone just yet so I canít really talk about anything concrete.

Phantom, with a book by Arthur Kopit and music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, is based on the novel "Phantom of the Opera" by Gaston Leroux. "The story revolves around the central character of a man named Erik, (also known as the Phantom) who was born and raised in the catacombs under the Paris Opera House. Through a series of circumĖstances, he takes on as a pupil a young woman named Christine, who has been a street singer. She has a natural talent and a beautiful voice, but she lacks the special training to perform in an Opera company. He agrees to take her on as a student with certain conditions, the main one being that she will never see his face. After a lot of hard work she eventually auditions for the company and is not only accepted but is given the opportunity to play a principal part in an Opera. Without realizing it, they fall in love with each other. The relationship becomes obsessive and impossible, leading to a stunning conclusion," explain press notes.

For tickets call 914-592-2222. Groups call 914-592-2225. Performances are Thursdays thru Sundays (with selected Wednesday Matinees & Eves): Wed. and Thurs. Matinee. - Lunch, 11:30am. Show 1pm. Thursday thru Saturday Eve. - Dinner, 6pm. Show, 8pm. Sunday Matinee - Lunch, 12 noon Show, 1:30pm. Sunday Evening - Dinner, 5pm. Show, 7pm.  For more information visit 

Photo by Linda Lezi: Robert Cuccioli