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“I never thought this was going to happen”: up close with London’s new Phantom


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"I used to sell tickets for Phantom, now I star in it."

Tim Howar giggles with childish excitement as he recalls his full-circle transition from front of house staff member to leading role in Britain’s second longest running musical.

Living off $10 a day in New York and struggling to survive, Howar’s career was ignited when he attended a musical at The New York City Opera which inspires him even today.

“I sat in the fifth circle, way above, looking down on people’s foreheads, but hearing this thing sing in the clouds changed my life, changed the way I looked at acting,” Howar says.

“It’s a performance I will always remember.”

It was this event, spurred on by an intense work ethic, that inspired Howar to follow the industry he loved.  

In his words, rising to the most coveted seat in the West End can only be attributed to hard work and a ‘never give up’ attitude that has seen the 49-year-old star in major productions either side of the Atlantic.

Having declined a dance scholarship at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to follow his love of musicals, Howar was thrown into the deep end aged 18 with a leading role in a budget production of Oliver! in Edmonton, Canada.

With this experience under his belt, he embarked on a series of Canadian productions before starring as Marius in a US tour of Les Misérables alongside original London cast member Colm Wilkinson.

Going on to star in shows across both Broadway and the West End, he began 2018 with a role as Freddie Trumper in Abba’s revival of Chess at the London Coliseum. 

“I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty,” Howar says.

“It doesn’t matter whether I’m mopping a floor, peeling potatoes, waiting tables or being a bartender.

“If you’ve got to put food on the table you’ve got to put food on the table and there’s always jobs out there.”

After welcoming his third child, Hamish, in early 2018, Howar learned of an opening at Phantom of the Opera. Hours of studying later, he went in for a successful audition. 

Unveiled as the latest star of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh’s successful hit at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Howar followed in the footsteps of original cast member Michael Crawford and Ramin Karimloo, who played the role in the 25th anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

“[The directors] called me, and they said, ‘will you come and audition for the phantom?’,” says Howar.

“After the fourth audition, Cameron Mackintosh was there, and he said ‘yeah, we want you’. I never thought it was going to happen.”

His personality traits certainly make him a perfect fit for the role.

He describes himself as a “delusional optimist” and, like the Phantom, thinks emotion is key to success in theatre.

“The measure of a good show is if it has a heart and tells a wonderful story,” says Howar.

“Cameron’s very particular about who he wants to have in that role and I hope he’s given me that because I like to tell a story and like to make it exciting.”

With a new album release and tour booked in for 2019 with Mike and the Mechanics, a band Howar joined in 2009 and claims he is a fan of, his second career is just as demanding.

Although singing has always been important, he admits that his intense work schedule can be tiresome.

“I finish on December 8th and I go immediately into a bunch of orchestra concerts, and then I’m on tour with my band,” Howar says.

 “I’m a little bit exhausted some days but that’s good, If I wasn’t exhausted I’d probably be worried I wasn’t doing enough.

“That’s what coffee’s for.”

Exhausting perhaps, but Howar’s self-proclaimed “graft” has paid off. As the interview comes to an end, he has a little over two hours until showtime.

“I need to go and get the makeup on, it takes about an hour but it’s all worth it,” says Howar.

Still clearly in love with what he does, Howar finishes with the philosophy that brought him so far.

“Given the opportunity to go for something just go for it. It’s been an honour.”

Phantom of the Opera is playing at Her Majesty's Theatre, London.

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