Tim Howar interview - 'I used to sell tickets for Phantom of the Opera, now I'm starring in it'
Canadian singer Tim Howar is a rock star through-and-through. Whether it’s leading ’80s rock group Mike + the Mechanics on stage in front of thousands, or taking to the theatre, starring in shows like Rock of Ages or Chess.
Now, he takes on the West End’s biggest rock star as he prepares to play the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical - a show he sold tickets for when he first moved to London.
We caught up with Howar to talk all things Phantom, why he thinks he got the job, and what it was like leaving the first preview of Chess mid-show to be by his wife’s side as she delivered their baby.
Phantom of the Opera is currently booking at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Phantom of the Opera tickets are available now.
How are you settling into rehearsals?
Great! It’s a really lovely company. Having seen the show a couple of times, I’m really impressed. It feels fresh, it actually sounds better than I remember – they’ve put a new sound system in. It feels like you’re walking into a major motion picture. You can get really sucked up into it, and that’s exactly how you should feel when you see Phantom of the Opera.
When was the first time you saw the show?
I saw it in Toronto with Colm Wilkinson as the Phantom, I’m a huge fan of his and I saw it three or four times. When I moved to London in 2001, it was post-9/11 and unfortunately, the show I was in closed, so I was penniless. A friend of mine who still actually works for Cameron Mackintosh offered me a job at Really Useful, so I used to sell tickets for Phantom. Everyone at the office was offered tickets to see the show, and I was blown away by the London production.
Did you ever imagine you’d be playing the Phantom?
Never. I’ve been the frontman of a band and sort of put all of my eggs into that basket. We’ve had gigs lined up with my band [Mike and the Mechanics], but we’ve managed to work it out which is great.
There probably isn’t a role so similar to the frontman of a rock band than the Phantom, so it must be a great fit for you?
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music has made him one of the most celebrated musical composers of the last 100 years, and it’s really exciting to be able to take a little bit of what I do as a rock singer, and blend it in. It’s all about storytelling really, and I think this story is still so relevant.
Do you have a moment you’re most looking forward to performing?
“Music of the Night” is going to be really something. Hearing everything come together is going to be very exciting for me.
Other than being a bona fide rock star, what are you going to bring to the role?
I think it’s all about bringing your own reality into it. The show has a human grandiosity to it which I love, and I hope I can bring that to the role because it needs to have that sense of otherworldliness as well as a sense of being human. I had a similar task in Chess, making my character human and someone who is difficult to hate. You want the audience to think: “oh he really is despicable, but I feel for him”. I think I got this job because of Chess.
Speaking of Chess, you had a pretty eventful time during one preview where you had to pull out of a performance during the interval…
Haha, yes... My wife had been in labour for 30 hours when the day of the first preview rolled round. The doctor told me “you’ve got about six hours, go and do your show and when you come back she should be ready”. I went to the theatre, but there was a call mid-way through the show to tell me that the baby wasn’t doing very well, which I didn’t know until I got off stage. Laurence Connor [director] told me, “well, you’ve got to go.” I thanked him, but said, “what are you going to do?” He suggested that he was going to walk on and sing the part with the book in hand. I thought: “That’s bad, you’ve got to watch the show.” I’d been talking to understudy Cellen Chugg Jones throughout rehearsals and knew he was ready. I left him a note to say ‘Go out and kill it’, and then I left, and had a baby. Cellen did an amazing job, he got lots of acclaim and so he should. But I hope nothing like that happens at Phantom, but you never know!
If you got the Phantom job because of Chess, is there a role you hope you might get next off the back of Phantom?
No, I’m a one role at a time guy! When you start putting expectations on your work, you usually get disappointed. The wonderful thing about being on stage is what you have, you have.