When The Phantom of the opera opens this week, Jordan Craig is looking forward not only to a hometown audience, but also showing his castmastes around his beloved city. He can’t wait to show them why he loves Cadillac Bar and the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation. He’s excited by the “awesome” transformation of Midtown. “And if I can get people to NASA, I’m doing it,” he says.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Craig says about singing Raoul de Chagny in the touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway smash The Phantom of the Opera. “It’s my first national tour, and I joined nearly three years ago—right after the show moved out of Houston into Miami. So this is my first time home with it.”
Craig’s clearly delighted to be back in the city of his roots, which also gave him his start in performing. In addition to singing with the Houston Grand Opera, he was in multiple performances of the Alley Theatre’s A Christmas Carol. A graduate of St. Thomas High School, he grew up going to performances at TUTS and said he has vivid memories of seeing Spring Awakening at the Hobby Center.
“I just knew,” he says. “I watched that show and I thought, someday I’ll be on that stage. And it’s happening!”
Craig began performing when he was 10, joining the Houston Grand Opera children’s chorus under the direction of Karen Reeves. His first performance was in Billy Budd, and he praises Reeves’ exacting teaching.
“She is my whole foundation in performing. Karen taught us accents and pitch and learning how to be part of the music. And she was so great with all of us kids,” says Craig.
Craig believes that opera foundation helped him immeasurably in his career. He feels that the attention to detail needed in the art form, as well as the way breathing and phrasing take on different emphasis than in traditional musical theater, is something that eventually propelled him to the role of Raoul.
Craig’s one of three main characters in the mega musical. He’s the love interest of Christine, a chorus girl elevated to a star soprano at a Paris opera house. She's tutored and pursued by the Phantom, and Craig sees his role as Raoul as her protector.
When the show landed on Broadway in 1988, it had already become a phenomenon, having opened in London two years earlier. It turned Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, who starred as the Phantom and Christine, into international stars. With its romantic music, lush sets and costumes, and a massive chandelier that figures prominently, Phantom became a global hit.
The current production is updated from its original incarnation, so anyone who’s seen the show in earlier forms will notice some changes. But Craig points out the musical feels fresher and more contemporary.
“Our Christine is a different look on that character,” he says. “She is actively making choices. And she’s still, to me, the fulcrum around which everything turns. I look at Raoul as the counterpoint to the Phantom. He represents security and respect, while the Phantom is dangerous and violent.”
When Craig signed on with the Phantom company two and a half years ago, he was cast in the ensemble and understudied the role of Raoul. He’s been singing the character now for more than a year and loves the trajectory his career has taken. Life on the road might be challenging, but he’s enjoying it.
“We’ve been to some amazing locations,” he says. “And I always try for a routine. I get up, I go to the gym, we might have rehearsals. Airbnb has totally changed touring life, so it feels a little more like making a home. I always try to see the sights.”
In addition to playing tour guide to help the Phantom cast experience his hometown, Craig is looking forward to sharing his work with Houston friends and family. For him, being on the Hobby Center stage is more than a kid’s dream come true—it’s a converging of personal and professional spaces. And no matter where he goes, he’s always a Houstonian at heart.
The Phantom of the Opera, Nov. 7–18. Tickets from $50. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 8000 Bagby St. 800-952-6560. More info and tickets at houston.broadway.com.