Eva Tavares is on the ride of her life.
Far from the rural tranquility of her parents’ organic High Croft Farm in Notch Hill, Tavares is performing the lead role in Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.
Based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it.
He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command.
“It’s been such a crazy, awesome ride and I am so grateful,” says the 25 year old who has been with the show since July.
Tavares was performing in a show in Toronto and working with someone involved in The Phantom, who told her she should audition for the starring role.
As soon as that show ended, she flew to New York twice, the second time to audition for Lloyd Webber himself.
“I had booked it, but had to keep it a secret for almost two months,” she says, of her successful audition, noting management had not released the news that the former principal was leaving the show.
Rehearsals began in Vancouver this summer.
“It’s definitely the biggest show I’ve been in,” she says. “It’s such a dream role and it means so much to so many people.”
A big part of what Tavares loves about being part of The Phantom of the Opera is talking to people at the stage door following the show, people who have a longtime and deep affection for Lloyd Webber’s production. “It’s spanning generations and it is still so relevant, filled with empathy, loving someone for who they are under the construct of who they show the world.”
There have been significant changes to the new production that toured North America in the 1980s, including massive changes in technology that make things like the chandelier drop a “little more freaky.”
Tavares’ journey to the Phantom stage began at the age of 13 in White Rock when she auditioned and was accepted to the Langley Fine Arts School.
Once accepted into the world of dance training, Tavares says one of her instructors told her she should consider singing lessons – something her opera-singing grandmother had been encouraging for years.
With a couple of performances with the children’s chorus of the Vancouver Opera to her credit, she headed to UBC where she earned a bachelor of music in opera.
When she graduated in 2014, Tavares was already working professionally and “auditioning for everything.”
After university, Tavares headed to Toronto where she concentrated on developing her acting chops.
“I knew I wanted to do musical theatre but I didn’t know how that would look like,” she says. “I put all my energy there and did a few shows before booking in as Maria in West Side Story in Edmonton.”
One of the “gifts” of that role was three months of paid training for the entire cast at the Banff Centre prior to the 2016 theatre run.
“Honestly, when I look back, it’s all kind of a chain reaction. My first union gig was in 2013 and since then it’s been go, go, go,” she says, pointing out she has had many great contracts. “Then there’s the times in between when there’s nothing; it’s a huge roller coaster ride. When you see someone at the top of their game it’s not representative of the struggles they have had.”
Tavares claims her career has involved a combination of working very hard, being in the right place and taking a lot of risks.
Currently in Boston, Tavares performs in six out of eight weekly shows and, while she finds touring rough, she and her cast mates try to adventure a bit in each city on the tour.
“When we were in Calgary, I was a little bit more active – we took salsa dance classes,” she says, noting she is gradually becoming more accustomed to changes in each new environment with its own associated weather and air quality.
And every city brings new reviews and opinions her father is quick to send.
“Thank God they’re nice,” she laughs.
And the grandmother who encouraged her to sing?
“She saw the show in Vancouver and we met at the stage door. I said, ‘Nana did you like it,’ and she just burst into tears and put her head on my shoulder.”
Tavares has also bonded with her cast ‘family’ and says she would trust Derrick Davis, the man behind the mask, and Jordan Craig as ‘Raoul’ with her life.
“We’ve had various little technical difficulties and you have to be able to trust those people,” she says of recent incidents where her skirt got caught in a floorboard and another in which she fell onstage, helped immediately by her co-stars.
The family farm is a welcome place for Tavares when she has time off, an organic, sustainable refuge that represents the “opposite end of the spectrum” in her life.
As prestigious as her role as Christine is in the well-loved The Phantom of the Opera, Tavares does not believe it is a “golden ticket” to future success.
“It’s a great opportunity that will teach me a lot,” she says, noting she will continue as she always has, with hard work, more training and auditions.