'Still the show you love'
When she's not singing, dancing and performing in front of thousands of people, Eva Tavares hangs out at her family's farm, about 4 1/2 hours outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, and entirely off the grid.
"It provides a kind of balance to this lifestyle; being outside really grounds me," says Tavares, 26, who stars in the leading role of Cameron Mackintosh's new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera."
One of Broadway's most beloved and longest-running musicals — which originally debuted in 1986 — will return to Keller Auditorium July 25 to Aug. 5.
Tavares will join the cast and orchestra of 52, which makes it one of the largest productions on tour in North America.
Tavares plays Christine Daae, the chorus singer who becomes the object of attention for the masked man known as The Phantom in the Paris Opera House.
If you've seen the love story as a child or a young adult, it promises to be a gratifying experience to see it again, now with pumped-up set design and staging due to modern technology.
"It's still the show you love," Tavares says. "The things that changed are the chandelier and the set and the amount of fire we have on stage. I like to say it's a bit amped up. We have tools now we didn't have 30 years ago."
The Tribune had the opportunity to catch up with Tavares between shows and ask about her background, hopes and dreams:
Tribune: Have you been to Portland before?
Tavares: I've never been to Portland before but I'm so excited; so many friends have told me how much they love it. It's very environmentally-minded. The show takes a lot out of me, but I've been told you guys have some amazing tiny houses. I would love to look at them.
Tribune: Tell us about your family's farm.
Tavares: My parents have an off-the-grid, self-sustaining farm in Shuswap, B.C. We have solar energy, do our own heating. We have goats, sheep, cows, horses, dogs, cats, bees, grow all our own produce. Last year I was there for five weeks.
Tribune: It sounds like you're living the dream. Is it everything you imagined?
Tavares: I like to say it's one of those things everyone dreams about. But it's kind of like having a child — you realize it's the most amazing thing ever but also the most work and the most terrifying. It's the most amazing gift to be given, but also pushes you to your limits.
Tribune: How did you get your start?
Tavares: I was a dancer first when I was young; I started at age 3. I thought I was going to be a dancer. I trained 20 hours a week and competed. I started singing in choirs at age 10 and kept dancing, and singing on the side. I did some children's chorus for a local opera company in Vancouver and caught the bug, got my bachelor's degree in opera. I trained as an actor, and musical seemed to be the logical path.
Tribune: What inspired you to go into theater?
Tavares: I first saw "Phantom" at age 10. I saw the touring production that came to Vancouver and I sat in the same theater I opened my contract in (last year). It was very full circle. I had walked into theater at 10 and said, 'Mom, I think I can do that. I want to do that." I had five shows there (last year); all my friends and family from high school were there. It's nice to be on the West Coast again.
Tribune: Is "Phantom" your favorite Broadway show?
Tavares: I feel like it kind of has a category all its own. It blends two styles — it has so many operatic elements, but it's a musical. It affects people in a way I haven't seen affect people as with other musicals. I love seeing people at the stage door, asking how they liked the show, and they say, "I saw it 30 years ago and brought my grandkids, I'm bringing my great-grandson to see it as the first show he sees." It makes an impact that's kind of hard to grasp because it has such longevity.
Tribune: I've heard that one of your big advocacy issues is mental health in the performing arts — tell us about that.
Tavares: I think it's crazy that artists don't have more support. They're asked to go to these scary places. There are definitely support systems out there but not accessible to us. There are lots of hockey and soccer teams that have grief counselors, sports psychologists — we don't have that in the arts. It seems crazy to me when we watch people die on stage, we have suicidal moments on stage and yet we need to transition into real life. I've found that occasionally there is this code of silence — if you're going through something, it's not right to talk about it with fellow actors. In this cast we have an open dialogue, but I've heard of it being an issue. It's such a community, it really behooves us to support each other.
Tribune: Any other personal passions you want to share with us?
Tavares: I've started something I call the Green Christine movement. When I joined the cast, there wasn't a huge standard of recycling and composting (on set). As a West Coaster, we have a little more of a mentality about being eco-conscious. It just drove me crazy. I started finding places to take our recycling and compost in each city, trying to be sustainable on the road.
Tribune: What's the big dream for you, five or 10 years from now?
Tavares: During my contract I will be here doing this work; it makes me very happy. But, ultimately I would love to try something on Broadway — to create my own character on Broadway that other people can do as well.
Tribune: Is "Phantom" appropriate for kids to see?
Tavares: Yes! Except I've heard that the only thing kids don't like is the kissing.
"The Phantom of the Opera" stages at Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay St., July 25-Aug. 5. There are 16 scheduled stagings. For tickets/info: www.broadwayinportland.com.