PARK CITY, Utah — Name the most famous contemporary theater musicals and Peter Karrie will have performed in the lead role on London’s West End.
Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables”? For more than three and a half years. The Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera”? At Her Majesty’s Theatre — and in Toronto, Singapore, Hong Kong and Vancouver.
Add in the roles of Che in “Evita,” Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha,” Daddy Warbucks in “Annie,” Fagin in “Oliver!” and Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” and you’ve created one of the most enviable musical theater resumes of leading men.
At his Park City Egyptian Theatre performance on Thursday, July 19, audiences will enjoy his acclaimed voice in a concert with “an informal, relaxed atmosphere,” Karrie says. As in his other concerts, Karrie relishes the chance of “treating the audience as a friend, where we can both get to chat and enjoy each other’s company.
“When one is appearing on stage in a costumed and directed production, one has to stay with the character one is portraying. But in a concert presentation, one can step out and be one’s self and have fun with the audience.”
The performance will be the culmination of a four-day session of master classes Karrie will have conducted with aspiring singers in Utah.
“I will have the pleasure of working with the students, setting up some scenes for them to perform in, which will then become part of the concert performed on stage,” he explains.
The concert will include solos by Karrie, duets with individual students and choral selections with students who will have participated in his workshops. Interspersed between the songs, Karrie will weave in reminiscences of performing in the theater productions represented by their iconic songs performed on stage.
“Everyone who enjoys musical theater will enjoy this concert as it is a comprehensive selection of some of the greatest musical compositions ever written plus some amusing anecdotal tales to accompany the actual performances,” he says.
The concert is titled “A Phantom Returns,” and “the Phantom theme is kind of carried through the show. But it doesn’t possess the whole show,” Karrie says. “We have also included a lot of other numbers from other shows that I've been involved with.”
In an indication of the acclaim received for the masked role, Karrie was twice voted the Most Popular Phantom by the Worldwide Phantom Appreciation Society, which is comprised of “Phantom Pfans.” With 2,750 performances, Karrie has played the role more often than any other singer-actor.
Playing musical theater's lead roles and his early love of music — “brought up on a small Welsh farm, I used to sing to the cows in the milking shed as though they were an audience” — the soloist developed a heartfelt appreciation for the power of music.
“Singing to me is the same as breathing is to you. I don’t know why I do it. It has always been that way for me,” he explains. “Music can have a huge emotional effect of any listener. Music evokes emotion, it can make you cry, laugh, be angry. It can make you want to dance. It can make you be romantic. It can and does inspire a full spectrum of emotion. And yet nobody can tell us why. But without it, what a mundane and miserable place this world would become.”
Karrie’s latest CD release, “Standing Alone,” is titled after a song composed for “The Contender.” The musical is about Welsh boxer Tommy Farr, who fought Joe Louis for the world title, and in the show that toured the U.K., Karrie played Farr’s mentor-trainer, Joby "Peg Leg" Churchill.
Beyond his performance in “The Contender,” the song has special significance.
“The meaning behind the title ‘Standing Alone’ is simply I have taken charge of my own destiny, and at the moment it’s great fun,” he says. “I am doing a lot of writing and producing and so much more performing abroad as well as at home. I suppose I am now an unfettered performer who is enjoying his career once again. That sounds deep, but it’s not meant to be. But for now, it feels so good to be ‘Standing Alone.’ ”
If you go
What: “Peter Karrie: A Phantom Returns”
Where: Egyptian Theatre, Park City
When: Thursday, July 19, at 7:30 p.m.
How much: $12-$30
Tickets: egyptiantheatrecompany.org or 435-649-9371