Over the years, two types of popular music have gotten a regal reception in Utah: religious music and Broadway music.
That means Michael Crawford may be crowned king when he comes to the Delta Center this week.The star of "Phantom of the Opera" will not only serenade the crowd with tunes from the Great White Way, but he'll likely sing a church standard or two from his his new CD, "On Eagle's Wings" (Atlantic 83076 2/4). The album contains the religious classics "The Holy City," "Amazing Grace," "I'll Walk With God" and "Now the Day Is Over."
Like Donny and his "Dream-coat," Crawford has the best of both worlds here.
"Church music is where I started, it's where my roots are," he told the Deseret News. "When I was 10 I went to a choir school that supplied singers to the choirs. At the time, I didn't realize the beauty of the surroundings where I was singing. It was beauty wasted on the young. But many years later I gained a real appreciation for church music. I did a lot of research for the album. I went to bookstores and other places and found as much variation as I could."
The CD - and the singer - will be at the Delta Center on Thursday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. The University of Utah a cappella choir will be performing with him; popular new age artist David Arkenstone will open the show. Tickets range from $30 to $60. Call 467-TIXX.
Born in Salisbury, Whiltshire, England, Crawford began as boy soprano in Benjamin Britten's "Let's Make an Opera." Soon after, he started acting. Some plum British TV roles came his way, and led him into the movies. There, he appeared in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "Condorman" and won acclaim and a strong fan following as Cornelius Hackl in the movie version of "Hello, Dolly!"
Robert Preston and Gene Kelly became his idols.
But an Oliver Award for his role in the Broadway hit "Barnum" brought him to his moment of truth when he landed one of the finest roles in modern entertainment - the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera." Sales of the CD featuring the original London cast reached 12 million. Today, the ghostly echoes of "Music of the Night" seem to hover inside all the songs he sings. He has become the music, and the music him - a fact he doesn't find troubling at all.
"I still love singing the songs from the show," he says. "I still feel the same joy singing them as I did when I began. Each time it's a challenge to sing those notes. I'll never tire of it."
Other opportunities beckon, but for now Crawford is keeping his options open. "I like all three male roles in `Les Miz.' That's an appealing musical. But there's nothing else. I believe things come before you if you're meant to do them. I've found not all dreams come true."
As for the Utah appearance, it marks Crawford's first visit to Salt Lake City, though he has established some ties with the state. At the George Bush presidential inaugural, he sang in the finale with the Tabernacle Choir behind him. He enjoyed the experience so much, in fact, he says he'd love to record with the choir someday.
"I was dressed as the Phantom then," he says, "I had this unlikely grin from ear to ear. I'd like to meet them again, without scaring them."
His other Utah moment came while he was working the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
"When I'd get a break, I used to go to Lake Powell," he says. "One time I was compiling songs for the inspirational album and had just heard the song `On Eagle's Wings' at a funeral. It impressed me so much I knew I had to do it. I was drifting along in the bottom of a boat on Lake Powell when I looked up and saw that the clouds had formed an eagle in the sky. I knew then that was what I was going to name the album. I took a picture of the cloud formation. It appears on the back of the `On Eagle's Wings' CD."
Indeed it does.
And a shot of Lake Powell appears on the inside.
Crawford says things come before him if he's meant to do them.
On May 21, he's apparently meant to be in Utah.