Why Seth Sklar-Heyn Keeps Coming Back to ‘Phantom,’ and You Should, Too

Seth Sklar-Heyn, Associate Director of “The Phantom of the Opera”

The longest-running production in Broadway history, “Phantom of the Opera,” is coming to Baltimore from Oct. 9 to 20. Playing at the city’s Hippodrome Theatre, it will bring its tale of passion, love, hatred and revenge — all set within a 19th century Parisian opera house — to local residents.

Created by Andrew Lloyd Webber, “Phantom” revolves around its mysterious title character’s obsession with a young and talented singer, and his increasing dark efforts to win her heart. The Baltimore Jewish Times spoke with the show’s associate director, Seth Sklar-Heyn, about what makes this production of “Phantom” special. This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

You’ve been a part of “Phantom” on and off since you were 19 as a stage manager. What is it about “Phantom” that has kept you coming back?

I grew up at a time when the theater was about immersive events where audiences were involved in the action. It was the age of the mega musical, which came here from England. “Phantom” was one of the first shows I’d seen growing up, and there’s a bit of nostalgia in getting to work on one of the musicals that I started my career with.

How did you first get involved in this current touring production of “Phantom?”

This production started in the U.S. in 2013, and at the time I was working as a supervisor for the Broadway production of “Phantom.” Cameron Mackintosh [the show’s producer] got me involved in the touring production.

Is there anything unique about this particular production?

While the story and characters have remained, the framing has changed. There’s a new set design, and the new version is more naturalistic. We’re trying to present the world of the piece in a different way from the original production. Tastes have changed over the last 30 years, and we are trying to give the piece a different pulse.

Do you think the way the story or characters are perceived by the audience has changed at all over time, particularly in the wake of the Me Too movement?

I guess. The story is set as a Victorian melodrama; it’s set in a specific time. It’s a period piece, and we’re not looking to present a contemporary world on stage. It’s also incredibly stylized. If audiences come in with an agenda, then they will see what they want to see on stage. We haven’t set out to adjust the piece in certain ways when it comes to the Me Too movement.

What are the major differences between a traveling production and a production that stays in one location, like on Broadway?

We strive to deliver something that is equal to if not greater than anything that would be seen on Broadway. Some expect a touring production to be watered down in some way. Cameron Mackintosh takes pride that his productions are equal to the New York productions.

“Phantom” is currently the longest running show in Broadway history. What is it like having to compete with some of the newer musicals like “Hamilton” or “Dear Evan Hanson?”

“Phantom” is incredibly unique in that it has persisted this long. We don’t feel we are competing with the other shows; we’re just trying to find new audiences who haven’t experienced the event, and to reengage previous audiences. This production gives audiences who already loved the material another opportunity to engage with the story and score.

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