A stylized and re-imagined version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” premiered at the Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis, as part of a brand new U.S. national tour.
Hailed as “stunning, intense and spectacular” by the United Kingdom’s Sunday Express newspaper, this production features a brilliant new design, new costumes, new staging, and new choreography – and a native son, Mark Emerson Smith, who grew up in Anoka.
Smith, who uses Mark Emerson as his professional name, plays the part of the auctioneer in the production, the story of a deformed composer who haunts the Paris Opera House and falls madly in love with Christine, an innocent young soprano whom he grooms for stardom.
“It’s thrilling to be a part of a brand new production of this legendary show,” Smith said in an email interview. “It still has the same beautiful score, characters and costumes as the brilliant original production but it has been re-envisioned from the ground up.
“It’s very exciting to be bringing a new production to people that no one in the U.S. has seen before. To be the character who gets to step on stage first and speak first was also a special thrill,” Smith said, describing the opening scene in which the auctioneer sells off artifacts at the Paris Opera House, explains the legend of the “Phantom of the Opera” and introduces the most famous prop of the musical, the chandelier.
After opening the tour in Providence, R.I., “Phantom” took the stage at the Orpheum and Smith said he’s glad to be home.
“This is only our second stop on the tour … and this is the first tour I’ve ever done. It’s pretty amazing that I get to come home and spend a month around the holidays with my family,” he said.
Smith’s on stage biography reveals spotlight moments he’s enjoyed for the past several years.
In London, England, he played Prior in “Angels in America” (Lyric Hammersmith), then performed in New York City in “A Picture of Autumn” (Mint Theater), “Drat! The Cat!” (Opening Doors) and “Viva Los Bastarditos!” (NYC Fringe and Encore Series).
Regionally, Smith has performed in San Diego, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, Connecticut, Vermont and New Mexico, appearing in “Sunday in the Park with George” (The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), playing Merton in “Merton of the Movies” (Dorset Theatre Festival) and taking the stage in “The Wiz” and “Zhivago” (La Jolla Playhouse).
“The show I’m proudest of (besides ‘Phantom’),” Smith said, “(is) Prior in ‘Angels in America’ at the Lyric Hammersmith in London, England. and a U.K. tour with stops in Glasgow, Newcastle, Cambridge and Manchester.”
Smith has called New York City home for the past six years, but he lived in Anoka until he was 18, attending St. Stephen’s Catholic School through eighth grade and graduating from Totino-Grace High School in 1994.
After high school, he went to Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., for undergraduate studies, then did theater in Chicago for five years before going to graduate school for acting at the University of California, San Diego.
As for his highest theatrical aspirations, Smith said that after the “Phantom” tour ends, “a dream of mine would be to perform in a Broadway show and record an original cast album.”
You can catch native son Mark Emerson Smith on stage playing the Auctioneer at the Orpheum Theatre (910 Hennepin Ave. S, Minneapolis) 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday until Jan. 5.
Tickets are $39-$130.
For tickets call 1-800-982-2787 or visit www.HennepinTheatreTrust.org.
Sue Austreng is at