Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" is one of the longest running stage productions in history. As a notable show of more than 20 years, the role of the Phantom is much sought after. Although Michael Crawford won awards for his long run as the iconic character, other actors have successfully filled his shoes.
Richard Todd Adams is the man currently behind the Phantom's mask. Broadway San Diego brings him to the Civic Theatre as the disfigured, musical genius.
This isn't his first run with the play or with Webber's work. He played the Phantom's nemesis, Raoul, on the national tour 10 years ago. On Broadway, he appeared in Webber's "The Woman in White."
He has also starred off-Broadway in "Berlin to Broadway" and has been in other plays such as "Les Miserables," "Jekyll and Hyde" and "Ragtime." Adams, who is also a classical pianist, said his mother is partly responsible for his musical talents.
"She was a concert pianist and teacher, so I was always around music," Adams said.
After attending Trinity University in Texas, where he received a bachelor's in vocal performance, Adams went to New York City and earned his master's in music from The Juilliard School in 1996. He immediately found work on stage and has amassed a notable career of diverse roles. The Phantom, he said, is the character he has really made his own.
"This is the most complex role in musical theater because it can play hundreds of different ways," he said. "The basic character is the same, but I change it up almost every night, especially in the extremely well-written final scene."
Adapted from Gaston Leroux's classic novel, the story is about a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House. He reins terror on its inhabitants in order to win the love of an innocent young soprano. The white half-mask that dons the Phantom's face has achieved its own celebrity status, and Adams understands at times he's portraying two different characters.
"The theory of the character is that when the Phantom has the mask on, he finds power and security and almost grows a foot in stature," he said. "When it comes off, he's diminished to an insecure person who can't deal with anything. When I look in the mirror with the mask, I can feel the power that transforms the different personas of the character."
Understanding the complex characteristics of the Phantom is key, Adams said.
"I didn't want him to be a monster or a maniacal beast," he said. "There is that within him, but he's also a human being, a man who wants to feel love. The story has a humanity about it."
Adams is excited about bringing "Phantom" to San Diego. His wife Maria Eberline, an actress whom he met on the set of "Jekyll and Hyde" in New York, is a San Diego native. She is expecting the couple's first child in September.
Adams assures San Diego playgoers that they will see a first-rate production. Greg Mills, who plays Raoul, has been performing for two years. Marni Raab, who plays Christine, has done the role for years on Broadway, and in Asia and Europe.
"The show on tour is basically what you would see in New York," he said. "While every individual who sees the show gets something different out of it, seeing 'Phantom' is seeing a part of musical theatre history. "
"The Phantom of the Opera" runs through Aug. 10. More information: (619) 570-1100,