South Orangetown Central School District

The Phantom of the Opera World Tour actors Michael Gillis (Phantom) and Matt Leisy (Raoul) Zoomed in from Taiwan yesterday to speak with The Singing Actor class at Tappan Zee High School. The session was the latest in “The Singing Actor’s Studio” series launched by TZHS Choral Director Russell Wagoner, DMA, last spring.

Gillis and Leisy are in the midst of a two-year tour in Taiwan and China and discussed the challenges of balancing professional and personal life on the road in the midst of a pandemic. Masks, temperature checks and other precautions are part of day-to-day life and trusting each other to make good decisions is key. “We have to be smart and not do everything we may want to do because we have to think about the rest of our company,” said Leisy.

Despite these restrictions, both actors were thankful to be working at a time when many productions are closed. And Gillis noted that travel and a certain self-confidence are perks particular to touring. “When you are working in a theater, you can become accustomed to the routine,” he explained. “Being on the road broadens your comfort zone. If you only have a lamp, a table and a chair, you learn to make it happen.”

These insights are valuable for students weighing career options in the performing arts. “As educators, we know the value of making connections with professionals in the music industry. It’s our objective to give students in our music program as many opportunities to work and learn face-to-face with these individuals,” says Wagoner. “Speaking with two of the leads from the world tour of The Phantom of the Opera, the students learned not only about the operations of a Broadway production, but also how being part of an international touring company can add another layer of joys and challenges. Students appreciate talking with the ‘best’ of Broadway and it’s a pleasure to bring them another step closer to look at the musical theatre from inside.”

Photo credits:

Guest experts Michael Gillis and Matt Leisy