Claire Lyon is an Australian actress, singer and recording artist who is best known for her portrayal of Christine Daaé in the Phantom of the Opera. From 2012 – 2015, Claire starred as Christine Daaé in the World Tour of the Phantom of the Opera, originating the role in several countries. She is also one of few actresses in the world to have been involved in both the Phantom of the Opera and its sequel Love Never Dies in which she understudied and performed the same role of Christine in the Australian national tour from 2011 to 2012.
Ms. Lyon is currently portraying Christine Daaé in the South Korean leg of the Phantom of the Opera, World Tour. The show is currently playing at Seoul’s Interpark Hall, Blue Square until June 26th, 2020.
This week we caught up with Claire to ask her a few questions.
GETTING TO KNOW CLAIRE
Claire, is there a specific moment that you can pinpoint when you made up your mind that you wanted to perform, was it a particular performance you attended or a performer?
Growing up I never actually thought of doing anything else! I’ve been lucky that my career has been quite seamless. I was employed with Opera Australia straight out of university and one job has always led to the next. I however do remember seeing Phantom at the Princess Theatre as a child and looking at the programme afterwards. It had all the elaborate production shots inside and I remember wanting to dress up and be Christine.
Do you attend singing and acting lessons even when on a show?
Sometimes! But more generally when I’m coming up for an audition and need to work on something specific. I have a wonderful operatic vocal coach Raymond Lawrence in Melbourne and I also see Niel Semer in NYC. If something requires a specific accent, I’ll work with a dialect coach.
Performing a show multiple times a week can be gruelling, how do you ensure you stay sharp both in a physical and a mental sense?
I tend to be quite boring! I rarely drink alcohol, get lots of sleep, drink lemon water and do yoga almost every day. You have to treat yourself like an athlete, knowing your limits and conserving your energy during the day so you can give 110% of yourself in your performance.
Is there something that you carry in your suitcase regardless of where you travel? Hydralyte! I have one on every long-haul flight and sometimes before a show if I’m feeling a little dehydrated!
Are you a light packer or a I carry the kitchen sink with me because I might need that packer?
Haha I wish I was a light packer! No matter if I’m going somewhere for a long period of time or just for the weekend I always over pack. But that’s because I dress according to my mood! At the moment that’s a lot of active wear! Oh and not to mention all the skin care products and shoes I lug around with me!
What is your favourite kind of movie to watch and do you have a film that you could watch a million times and not get bored of, also what is your go to movie watching snack?
Oooh….I don’t know if I have a favourite kind, but a few faves are The Great Gatsby, Oliver, Gladiator, The Notebook, The Pianist. As a snack I’d probably choose a mint choc chip Connoisseur ice-cream, maltesers or peanut M&Ms. And a cup of tea.
I spoke to a few Phantom of the Opera fans living in South Korea and as Carolyn mentioned “It really means a lot to us that the show is continuing during this time. It has been seven years since Phantom has been to Korea so many have been waiting to see the show.”
Eunhye KO mentioned that “Phantom of the Opera is a great comfort to them in this gloomy time.”
WHAT PHANTOM MEANS TO CLAIRE
Claire, you are one of the few actors to have portrayed Christine Daae in both Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies, how did you prepare in regards to playing the same character at different stages of their life and knowing that the two had experienced a variety of different experiences and growth?
Well, I was involved in Love Never Dies before Phantom, but of course knew the original show well. I suppose I had a bit of a looking glass into the future when I came to play Christine in Phantom. For me, it solidified the fact that she did also see the Phantom in a romantic sense, not just a father figure. They have a deeper connection than just music. For Love Never Dies, one has to think about what she then endured over the next ten years. Becoming a mother, concealing the secret of Gustave’s real father, the change in her relationship with Raoul and the effect that would have had on her etc.
When showing in non- English-speaking countries such as South Korea as opposed to playing a character in a language that is in the viewer’s mother tongue do you change any characteristics or any of the dialogue so it comes across smoothly?
Ooh good question! Only one tiny thing changes on the World Tour….During the Hannibal rehearsal scene in Act 1, Monsieur Lefevre exits the stage swiftly. The original script reads “Good Luck! If you need me, I shall be in Frankfurt!”, but on the World Tour, we change this city to a local holiday destination. Here in Korea, it is “JeJu-do”, or JeJu Island. Apart from that, our production is the same as one would see on Broadway or the West End.
The Blue Square Theatre is a beautiful theatre, what have been your highlights?
I love the Blue Square Theatre! It’s such a unique building (literally a giant blue square) and it has been wonderful to come back and be in my same dressing room as 2012/13.
How do you make a role that is so well known and loved by many your own?
In any role that I take on, I simply just try to be as true to what I think the character might be feeling in that very moment. There’s never been a decision where I’ve thought “ok in this part, I’m going to be different by doing x”, I just do what comes naturally, within the parameters of our direction. Perhaps my Christine is a little stronger now compared to 7 years ago. I see her more as a heroine, but that could also be because I’m 7 years older! Who knows?
When playing opposite a different Phantom, how easy do you find it to adapt to little varieties in how an actor portrays him?
Fairly easily actually! I try not to get too “stuck” in how I perform every show. Of course I have stick to the same lines and blocking and general feeling of the character throughout the show, but if I remain “in the moment” as an actor, then I can only react to what my fellow actors give me, emotionally and physically, on stage. For example, our Phantom Jonathan Roxmouth has a very different energy to his understudy Ian Bourg, and Ian is again different to the other understudy Michael Gillis. If I reacted in the same exact way to all three of them, it wouldn’t necessarily make sense! You have to go with the flow.
What draws you to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music?
What I really love about Andrew’s music is that he writes such beautiful, yet simple melodies. His music is so catchy and memorable that you can’t leave one of his shows without humming a tune or two. And there are often repeated motifs throughout which reference certain characters or emotions. It’s really quite clever.
Is there one part of Christine’s character that you would like to explore in more depth?
I would actually like to explore her upbringing further. Her father was a violinist and they were familiar Raoul’s family, but we don’t know a great deal apart from that. What was their life like prior to her being in the Corps de Ballet at the Paris Opera House? I wish Gaston Leroux were still alive so I could ask him more questions!
Is the South Korean production performed with subtitles?
Yes it is! But audiences here, particularly in Seoul, are so familiar with the show that it’s likely that they don’t even need them!
Eunhye KO mentioned mentioned that “many of them are concerned about Phantom of the Opera resuming performances but are happy to hear that the production is following the guidelines of the Korean Government. ”
Carolyn summed the overall thoughts up well stating that “During these crazy times, people are really grateful to be able to go out and experience theatre. It helps ease the stress and create some sense of normalcy.”
The South Korean fans send their love to you all and thank you for continuing during this challenging time for them.
PERFORMING DURING COVID 19
Phantom of the Opera, World Tour is one of very few shows that is playing at this time, do you feel any extra pressure knowing that much of the theatre world’s attention is focused towards how the show is managing different situations and scenarios?
Absolutely there is a great deal of pressure and mixed emotions. I have so much gratitude and respect for our producers Troika Entertainment and RUG, local presenters SnCo, and general managers GWB. Their determination and creative thinking has kept our show afloat. Korea has been the perfect example of how a society can still operate during a pandemic. At the same time, I’ve been experiencing a great amount of guilt that I am still employed and working when almost everyone I know abroad has lost their job. It’s devastating. Every day is still an emotional roller coaster!
How, if at all has your daily and pre-show routine changed within this climate, have you had to change any of that routine?
Not much at all to be honest, apart from excessive hand washing and taking my temperature! I’m so hyper aware of my body and voice as it is when performing this role, that it is natural for me to be monitoring myself throughout the day anyway! I just try to keep as healthy as possible, taking my vitamins, having the humidifier on in my dressing and hotel room, keeping hydrated etc.
Mentally, how are you looking after yourself at a time where there is so much information, news and somewhat sadness? How important is mental health for you during this time?
I was struggling when I first arrived here in Korea! I am generally a pretty up-beat person and have thankfully never suffered from anxiety, but I found myself unable to breathe properly for a few weeks. Watching the news became overwhelming so I decided to only get my updates online. I found getting stuck into a puzzle quite therapeutic in a mind-numbing kind of way, and burning candles and essential oils soothing too. Listening to music and doing online live streamed yoga classes with ‘One Hot Yoga’ has been great too.
You are over 8,000 km from home at the moment, how are you keeping in contact with loved ones and is there anything that you are missing more that you possibly may not under usual circumstances?
My fiance! Prior to coming to Seoul we had only ever spent 3 weeks apart and he was due to take several trips to Seoul to visit me, but with the Australian border closed, it has now been 7 weeks apart, but we are hopeful that we will get to see each other soon. Also, thank GOD for the internet! I have been FaceTiming family and friends constantly which has lifted my spirits a great deal!
What song, for you would sum up how you feel about what is happening?
I would probably have a different answer for you every day, because every single day is different. So today I’ll go with “I’ll be seeing you” – Billie Holiday.
In finishing, Do you have a message for the Australian Theatre Community?
Just that I’m sending my love to everyone and I think about my friends and colleagues a lot. I know there will be a way forward for theatre and I hope that the South Korean model here at Blue Square Theatre can serve as a model moving forward, because it truly is working. Xx
Thank you Claire !