Laura Farmer: First and foremost, you’re the current “Phantom” from Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. What do you enjoy about the role and show? What are its challenges?
Ben Crawford: Playing Phantom is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! It requires so much energy to portray him well. But it’s such an iconic character. It has definitely become a labor of love to really bring the best I can to this role. The thing I appreciate about the show is that it brings so many themes to the audience to sort through, yet it doesn’t fully fill in any of the blanks. It leaves audiences wondering and wanting more. I think that’s what really makes it a great show.
You’re taking a break from Phantom and NYC audiences to come and perform “Ben Crawford: Broadway and Beyond” with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Jack Everly’s baton on January 16th to 19th. What should audiences expect?
We’re calling it “Broadway and Beyond” because it’s more than just Broadway songs. The program will have styles and genres for everyone, from classic Rodgers and Hammerstein to newer shows like Hamilton to even Billy Joel. I love preparing for a show like this because it keeps me on my toes! The various genres require a different approach sonically and in my technique. It’s really fun.
You’ve worked with the BSO and Maestro Jack Everly on several occasions. These collaborations have resulted in some really beautiful and critically acclaimed performances, such as last year’s tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein. Can you comment on what you appreciate about working with Maestro Everly and the BSO?
I’ve been performing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for more than ten years now, and with Jack Everly for even longer. I love the BSO and always feel blessed to have the opportunity to perform with them. There’s nothing like singing with this wall of sound to back you up. It’s one of the best symphonies in the country. And Jack is a great friend and phenomenal talent. I appreciate him providing me with this opportunity.
It’s tough for any city to compete with the sights and lights of New York City, but we believe Baltimore boasts some pretty exceptional restaurants, sights, and culture of its own. Any favorite restaurants or points of interest you’ve discovered during your frequent stays in Charm City?
I usually stay in Harbor East and then perform at the Meyerhoff in the Mount Vernon area. Both places have so much to offer within easy walking distance. I always try to go to brunch at Ms. Shirley’s downtown. And I’m a big fan of great beer, so James Joyce is always a convenient and great place to eat and drink. I also really enjoy Baltimore’s waterfront. From Harbor East, you can walk in either direction and see so many great places to eat and shop.
You’re the “Phantom” by night, and father by day to two young kids. Any advice for managing the parenting / career juggling act? Have your kids seen you perform?
Yes, it definitely changes your perspective! I know I get a lot less sleep. And it influences what I’ll leave town for. People are more respectful of my time because they know that I need to prioritize time with my kids.
My kids aren’t really old enough to sit through an entire show yet. Plus, at this age, they would rather watch “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”! That’s a very important show in our house! They do visit me in my dressing room. My daughter thought the Phantom’s red death skull mask was funny, but when I put on the regular Phantom mask, she started shaking with fear. So yeah, probably a few more years before they will really appreciate seeing dad perform.
Finally, 1% of 1% of singers actually make it to be a Broadway star. Any advice to aspiring singers?
Work hard! Everyone wants this dream as badly as you. Do the work. This includes more than just singing. Understand the business side of this industry. I also believe that regional theatre is very worthwhile! It offers you the opportunity to travel and see the country. Work hard to achieve your dreams, but also appreciate the opportunities that present themselves where you are.
Ben Crawford performs with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on January 16th to 19th. For tickets, visit BSOmusic.org or call 410-783-8000.