SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- Here's a quick quiz. What Andrew Lloyd Webber musical used the slogan "Now and Forever?"

It was "Cats," but you'd be forgiven if you answered "Phantom of the Opera." It is still thriving and after its opening 26 years ago it is still playing on Broadway. This week "The Phantom" returns to Proctors Theatre for the third time. The show plays Wednesday through June 8.

"Phantom" opened in Lon-
don in 1986 and on Broadway in 1988. The show is a statistician's delight - having played in almost every country in the world as well as almost every state in the United States. The audience counts are astronomical and the number of blocks of dry ice used to create the subterranean chase would likely be enough to cloud seed the entire world.

But perhaps the best and most human way to point out the show's longevity is that in this national touring production the role of Raoul will be played by Ben Jacoby. Ben's father, Mark Jacoby, played the role of the Phantom on Broadway in the 1980s.

Jacoby says when he was a youngster his father didn't play Stage-Pop with him to try to encourage his son to follow in his footsteps. "In fact he tried to talk me out of going into show business," he said. When it was clear Ben knew the path he wanted to travel, his father gave him total support as well as a primer of what to expect with the uncertain life of an actor.

The young man appears to have paid attention. He completed his college education and got his MFA in acting at University of California-Ir vine.


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After graduating he took more acting courses, with an emphasis on training in Shakespeare. It resulted in being cast in enviable roles at Utah Shakespeare Festival and Milwaukee Rep.

Jacoby says his father has seen him perform in "Phan tom" but has not obsessed over giving him character notes. "It's been 20 years since he played it on Broadway," he says. Adding, "And, he played a different role."

He says most of their conversation was more about the change in tone of the entire production. "This is a much grittier interpretation," says Ben.

The young Jacoby plays Raoul, the lover of Christine who tries to rescue her from the clutches of the Phantom.

"We have been encouraged to find the darkness of our characters and play them as real people," he said. "I am able to show Raoul as more a man who is concerned that a ghost is lurking in the Paris Opera House and is murdering people. He is terrified for the woman he has always loved and desperate that she might be in his clutches.

"We are finding more reality in the moment and I think that makes the show fresh."

However, Jacoby makes it clear it is still the themes of unrequited love and the mystery surrounding the Phantom character make the show so compelling.

"Of course there is the music," he says. "The majestic operatic-like score just elevates this wonderfully romantic story."

And yes, the chandelier does drop. But Jacoby who calls the show "massive," says the entire show is huge pointing out it takes 20 trucks to move scenery for the 22 scenes and the more than 200 costumes.

"The approach to the characters has been updated but the spectacle of the show will still be phenomenal," he promises.