Phantom Pop

Musical Arts Pop Music

Alan Pappe

Broadway baby: Lisa Vroman

‘Phantom’ star swings the Pops

By Gretchen Giles

CONTRARY to every creamy old movie you’ve ever seen, being at the top of the theatrical food chain isn’t all backstage intrigues and champagne cocktails tossed down gaily while one slinks around in ermine-lined satin robes during languorous dressing-room changes between scenes.

Just ask Lisa Vroman, the soprano star of the long-running San Francisco production of Phantom of the Opera. Playing Christine, the naive ingenue who unfortunately attracts the ardor of the sensitive madman living in the theater’s bowels, Vroman labors under high hair and 40-pound costumes, staggering off the stage to pound down Gatorade and Power Bars before struggling into yet another costume weighted like a mid-sized child, and then zooming back out to sing some more. While smiling.

This is the glamorous whimsy that Vroman performs six times a week. “Twice on Wednesdays,” she mock-groans. As for the big-happy-family concept that theater folks always stress, Vroman loves her colleagues, but she never sees them. “There are times when I just whiz by other cast members,” she admits, allowing that her extensive stage time limits her contacts to her dresser and her hair stylist, who must fuss during her brief offstage breathers. As for backstage intrigue, don’t ask Vroman where the love affairs are. But you could do her a favor and tell her. “Clueless,” she sighs. “I don’t get to hear any of it.”

While admitting to being just a tad bit this side of stressed (four years of brutishly beautiful costumes have just sent Vroman to the chiropractor, the doctor, and the bed), she is truly not complaining.

“I’d be lying to you if I said that I felt fresh every day,” she says emphatically by phone from San Francisco’s Davies Hall, where she is preparing a program of turn-of-the-century concerts to open the San Francisco Symphony’s American Festival.

“But jobs like this, with a lead role that suits me really well–they just don’t come along that often. And, there are thousands of people who want my job.”

Those thousands of panting aspirants are going to have to wait a while longer, because Vroman’s not going anywhere. But she is taking an unheard-of break: one glorious week. What’ll she do? Work.

Because this petite, ageless–as in, she won’t give her age–woman plans to spend her summer vacation singing by Sonoma State University’s lake with the Santa Rosa Symphony in its annual Pops concert. Conducted by grad school pal Asher Raboy (they were friends at Carnegie-Mellon), this concert of surprises, standards, and favorites has been planned by Vroman herself. “I haven’t done anything like this before,” she admits.

Planning a mélange of tunes by Irving Berlin, Stephen Sondheim, and other musical greats, Vroman is looking forward to an afternoon out of what she terms “Phantomland.”

“It’s going to be great to sing freely,” she asserts.

A working vacation sounds just about right for this performer, who spent years touring with such productions as Les Misérables before settling into the Phantom over two years ago. After all, she’s the one who notes that being home for Christmas in her field means that you’re unemployed, saying with a tart irony, “They call it show business. They don’t call it show fun.”

Meanwhile, the luxuries of a home-delivered pizza and falling asleep in front of a video confine the limits of Vroman’s expectations. Eventually, she would like to start a family, take weekend trips, and own a pet not traumatized by owner-absence. But she is content for now.

“It’s so great to live in San Francisco, sleep in my own bed, and have a job,” she says with satisfaction.

“Lisa Vroman at the Pops!” tunes up on Sunday, June 23. Picnicking from 1:30 p.m., music at 4 p.m. SSU, Lake, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. Table seating is sold out; lawn seating is $5 for youths; $12 for adults; $40 for families. 54-MUSIC.

From the June 20-26, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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