|Cooper Grodin and Julia Udine star in The Phantom of the Opera|
With the American premiere of producer Cameron Mackintosh’s new extra-Gothic take on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera recently opened in Philadelphia at the Academy of Music, it’s only fitting that one of its leads hail from the area. Amongst the Phantom’s cast and orchestra of fifty-two players is the South Jersey's Julia Udine, the actress and vocalist who portrays one Phantom’s three lead characters, “Christine Daaé. We had the opportunity to speak to Ms. Udine following The Phantom of the Opera’s opening night.
A.D. Amorosi: Since we love the locals, I can’t help but ask – what do you hold onto from your days in Voorhees and South Jersey?
Julia Udine: I am so grateful to come from such a supportive family. I have over 30 cousins who all live in the South Jersey area along with my immediate family who still resides in Voorhees. They, along with my aunts, uncles and grandparents, are my backbone. Whenever I am home I always try to go back to my voice teacher, Melissa Daniels, and go and take a class from my dance teacher Andrea Duffin at South Jersey Ballet School. The friendships I have made through ballet and the local theater companies are friendships that I hold on to and continue to today. Voorhees, of course, is closest to my heart! You will not meet better neighbors anywhere. This past week, the Voorhees Middle School Drama Club directed by Leta Strain did a field trip with about 200 students and families to see Phantom. The support is overwhelming and I couldn't be happier to be home for a few weeks.
A.D. Amorosi: Was going to the theater a big part of your childhood and teen years?
Julia Udine: Yes, I did see a lot of theater in Philadelphia, as well as in New York City, throughout my childhood. The first musical I ever saw was Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. That’s what first inspired me to pursue singing and acting. I remember seeing Les Misables at the Walnut Street Theatre with Hugh Panaro, who is currently “the Phantom” on Broadway. That was definitely a favorite of mine. I regularly went to the Academy of Music for shows as well, including the Pennsylvania Ballet with my mother and sister. Swan Lake with Riolama Lorenzo was my favorite. She guest appeared in my ballet school's company – the South Jersey Ballet Theatre – and I remember being in complete awe of her grace and talent.
A.D. Amorosi: What was your first role locally, and what did you learn from it?
Julia Udine: My first role was “Shprintze” in Fiddler on the Roof at the Voorhees Theater Company. I was 7 years old and I learned I shouldn't wave to my Aunt Karen who was in the audience in the middle of the show. Well, that and of course how to work with a team. Collaborating with the directors, choreographers, stage management, tech, etc. are all so important when doing a show. They are your teammates and listening to their instruction and feedback as well as respecting everyone involved is something I learned at an early age that still applies now.
A.D. Amorosi: What is your vocal range?
Julia Udine: I am a classically trained soprano and can easily use my chest voice and lower register to sing more contemporary pieces.
A.D. Amorosi: Where did you train?
Julia Udine: My ballet training started when I was 3 years old with Andrea Duffin at South Jersey Ballet School. Over the 15 years that I spent in her studio, I learned what perseverance and discipline meant. I think anyone who has ever trained in ballet knows exactly what I mean. I have to say that those virtues have stayed with me through my training in every aspect of performing. I started training vocally with Melissa Daniels when I was 9 years old. She was able to give me vocal technique at a young age that not only taught me how to protect my voice, but also how to sustain it in vocally challenging roles. She never pushed me to do things that my voice was not ready for. So, just like in ballet where your growth takes many years, your voice is also a muscle that I slowly developed and continue to develop with Melissa. She introduced me to all different genres including classical, jazz, musical theater, and pop. Both Melissa and Andrea have given me so much knowledge and also the courage to pursue this career. As I started getting more into doing theater as a teen I also had acting coaches including Courtney Daniels and Erica Harr. I think that every show that I did and my experience with different directors all gave me something to learn and incorporate into what makes me who I am as an actor.
A.D. Amorosi: You’ve got some handsome credits, including “Maria” in West Side Story. How did you make such an iconic role your own?
Julia Udine: I really tried to dig deep into the music and lyrics to see how it affected me. Taking on a role like that is when you truly experience collaboration with your director and his vision, as well as what you personally can bring to the role, while still staying true to the script and the story. What's so great about “Maria” is that she's a very well written role and so it's easy for both the actor and the audience to connect with her.
A.D. Amorosi: Now double that for Phantom of the Opera and “Christine Daaé”. What did you know about the role? Did you see an original stage production? Were you a Phantom junkie? Did you see the movies?
Julia Udine: “Christine” is also a very well written role because she has such an emotional journey in the show. I am so honored to be able to take on the challenge of playing her. She is yearning for love and guidance which is something any young girl can connect to. I saw Phantom twice on Broadway and loved it, and I also saw the recent version of the movie. The lush music and timeless story is something I connected to and have loved from a young age when I began singing Christine's songs in voice lessons.
A.D. Amorosi: The new production, though slick, is so much more gothic than previous versions. What say you about it?
Julia Udine: This is an amazing new design concept that incorporates technology that wasn’t available to the theater world when Phantom was first created almost three decades ago. Our scenic designer, Paul Brown, has created an entirely new design that lets audience members not only experience what is happening on stage at the Paris Opera House, but also takes them on a journey behind the scenes and below the scenes for an incredible new experience. And, of course, our new chandelier that does everything you would want it to do, and more.
A.D. Amorosi: What are your favorite moments of Phantom, whether you’re in them or just watching from the wings?
Julia Udine: I have a few favorites. In the second act during the second managers’ scene you see “Christine” faced with a terrifying decision and I think it is a real climax in the show, especially for her. Also, the song “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is my favorite song in the show to sing. There are so many layers and so many things to play with every night and discover in the lyrics. My favorite moment of “the Phantom”’s is when he says 'fear can turn to love, you'll learn to see, to find the man behind the monster...' I think those lyrics especially are something every audience member can connect to because everyone has felt undesirable at some point, or unloved.
A.D. Amorosi: Lastly, you’re in the hallowed halls of the Academy of Music with their chandelier right next to yours. How does it feel to look up and see such magnificence every night?
Julia Udine: I’m thrilled to be at the Academy! It is such a gorgeous theater, and I am so lucky that so much of my family lives locally and is able to attend.
The Phantom of the Opera runs through Saturday, April 12, at the Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102. For ticket info call 215-893-1999 or visit KimmelCenter.org. For general info about the Phantom tour visit www.ThePhantomoftheOpera.com.
Photo by Matthew Murphy
To follow Glamorosi Magazine on Facebook click here.
Posted on Tuesday, April 1, 2014