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"Phantom of the Opera" Hits Record Books; Alberto Gonzales Holds Press Conference; Golden Globes Buzz

Aired January 13, 2006 - 14:30 ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a phantom has been sneaking up on Broadway, and this week it happened. "The Phantom of the Opera" took a leap into the theatrical record books when the curtain went up for performance number -- get this -- 7,486.
CNN's Kelly Wallace unmasked the secrets behind the "Phantom" phenomenon.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "The Phantom's" become a phenom. After 18 years it is now the longest-running show in Broadway history. Cast member George Lee Andrews has been with the show since opening night in 1988. . . .

. . . WALLACE (voice-over): Kelly Wallace, CNN, New York.


PHILLIPS: Guess who else is timeless? Michael Crawford. He was the first "Phantom of the Opera" when that show came to Broadway 18 years ago. And he's still the performer that we usually think of when we talk about "Phantom." He joins us live from L.A. Michael, what a ride.

MICHAEL CRAWFORD, ACTOR: It was indeed, Kyra, yes, and memories flooding back there as I watch it. We were in New York at the weekend for the celebration, and it was so great to see most of the original cast were there, and memories came flooding back. It was 18 years ago to that very night that we first went out there for the very first preview, so exciting.

PHILLIPS: Well, let's talk -- no, I can just imagine what's going through your mind. I was watching you actually watch the piece, and I saw the smile. It could tell it was heartwarming.

Talking about how you actually got the role, Sarah Brightman, another amazing performer/singer -- oh my gosh, and you even got to perform with her -- her husband, obviously, Andrew Lloyd Webber, she actually heard you singing, is that right, and she came home and said to her husband I have the phantom?

CRAWFORD: Yes, I was at a singing lesson, and we both had the same teacher, and they arrived I suppose 20 minutes early for Sarah's lesson, and I was singing something like "Danny Boy" or something completely inappropriate. And apparently she -- I left without knowing this, and she said to my singing teacher -- Andrew came in and said I think we have our Phantom.


CRAWFORD: And -- yes.

PHILLIPS: Now the singing teacher, was that Ian Adams?

CRAWFORD: That's correct, yes.

PHILLIPS: OK, and isn't he the one that said to you, all right, I'm listening to "Danny Boy," you have got to work on this, you have got to work on that, you are OK?

CRAWFORD: Oh, yes, he was one of those teachers in your life that hopefully all of us have, that's one we always remember, and I've had him as a teacher for 30 odd years, and he is still my teacher.

PHILLIPS: Wow. Well, Michael, it is not surprising if you think of what you've done, if you look back to your childhood. I mean, just reading about you and seeing these pictures of you as a young boy and learning that you were singing opera at what age? Was it like seven or eight? When did you start singing opera?

CRAWFORD: Look at those legs.

PHILLIPS: You're still adorable. Still adorable.

CRAWFORD: Yes, I was. I was singing opera at the age of -- I was singing in St. Paul's Cathedral as a choir boy, and I remember miming to the "Matthew Passion" because I couldn't possibly learn all the words.

So I was the first miming artist at St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey and Brompton Oratory. And then I went into the English Opera Group, and we did a couple of Benjamin Britten operas, so that was very, very special I believe.

PHILLIPS: Did you ever -- I mean, you had such an interesting gift. Was there a time when you were younger, I mean, as a child where you thought man, I just don't fit in with other kids?

CRAWFORD: That's what my mother thought, Yes. No, I was always -- I was very, very shy, but I was always -- like some performers, I was always seeking attention, so I had lots of friends in the classroom, and I made them laugh until authority walked in, and then I didn't have a friend in the place. So I left school rather rapidly, rather early. And I went into radio, and I did about 500 radio broadcasts for the BBC and learned the basis really of my acting ability which was to produce a character without a voice, without a face that you had to, you know, create characters in that way on the radio.

PHILLIPS: Well, this is what amazes me is that you say that you were shy. And, of course, we did a little hunting around. I had no idea you were in a British sitcom which, from what I understand, did extremely well. And we actually found a clip from " Some Others Do Have Them." And let's take a look at this.




PHILLIPS: OK. Now, who would have ever thought that Michael Crawford, the king of "Phantom of the Opera" was a klutz named Frank Spencer in a sitcom doing your own stunts?

CRAWFORD: Well, I did. I loved Laurel and Hardy, and I loved Buster Keaton. They were my heroes. And oh, my gosh, look at that. And I used to love doing these stunts, so it was quite an ordinary comedy series to start with, and it's now been running for thirty years in England, and it's still on BBC2 on a Sunday afternoon to this day.

PHILLIPS: Did you ever hurt yourself?

CRAWFORD: Not really. As you can see, I was quite well padded there. I had quite a few knee pads on.

PHILLIPS: The Evel Knievel of Britain.



PHILLIPS: I know, that's great when we can laugh at ourselves, right? Someone else, who I just -- I know you adore this individual and grew up with her. And I just cracked up when I saw not only these clips but pictures of Grandma Nan. What an amazing influence in your life. Tell us about her.

CRAWFORD: She was -- I think many of us have a wonderful grandmother, and this -- I grew up without a father, father's presence, so I was with my mother and my grandmother, and this lady -- the picture you see now, she was 99. And she drove -- there she is. You have got this picture of her driving this lawnmower around the garden.

And on her right there just where the paving stone is, is a swimming pool, and I was determined to take a photograph of her, and she so nearly went in the swimming pool and it almost turned into disaster. She was Irish. She sang these songs as a child and made my cry with songs about Galway Bay and the places she loved, and I still find my love so strong for her to this day.

PHILLIPS: What an amazing woman. Well, you know, that love that you received from grandma is probably a big reason why you love kids so much. I was reading about when you were in Barnum and you would bring kids dying from leukemia, you know, into your show. You would make room for them no matter what. I thought specifically about one story about a young girl near -- Vanessa. Tell us about that story.

CRAWFORD: Vanessa was in the Manchester Children's Hospital in England, and I used to go ...

PHILLIPS: Michael, hold that thought. Forgive me. Hold that thought. We're going to come back to it.

We've got some developing news in the newsroom with Tony Harris. We just want to get to that real quickly -- Tony?
Right after a quick break, more with Michael Crawford and "The Phantom of the Opera" taking a tremendous leap into the theatrical record books. Also, Sibila Vargas on Wisteria Lane. LIVE FROM continues right after this.



PHILLIPS: Michael Crawford, who's now my T.D. (ph), has never been the same. Because you did so well, he never got a shot at Broadway.

CRAWFORD: Well, Andrew Lloyd Webber should spot him immediately.

PHILLIPS: There you go, Matt. You might -- there you go. He might have a second chance.

You know, we talked about "Phantom" just hitting the record books, and we were talking about your family and your grandmother and so many wonderful experiences throughout your life, but you have done so much for children.

And we were starting to talk about a specific story about a young girl, Vanessa, who you will never forget, who you brought to Barnum, because she was struggling with leukemia. And you have just really had a really big passion to give back.

CRAWFORD: Yes, I mean, when lots of good things happen to you, you are often given the opportunity to go and visit children's hospitals. And that was the great thing about doing that comedy series, which was so child friendly. So children knew you, and you were no threat. So when you visit hospitals and it would be a useful visit. You were able to be of use.

And there was this one beautiful little girl. She was about nine. And her name was Vanessa. And it was at Manchester Children's Hospital. And we were playing Barnum at the opera house there, and I arranged for her bed to be moved to the theater for a matinee. And they removed two rows of seats so that they could get her in.

And the whole show, the company, had visited Vanessa, and the whole show we played up to the circle so that Vanessa would see us. And it was just such an exciting show to do for this young child, who only had one more week to live.

PHILLIPS: Well, Michael Crawford, what an honor and pleasure to interview you. Incredible run with "Phantom of the Opera." You are involved with so many other things. You give so much back. You are a big part of our family.

I got to tell you, my husband never takes the CD out of the CD player. He is a "Phantom of the Opera" addict. So this was special for a lot of us. Thank you so much for your time.

CRAWFORD: Thank you so much for inviting me. That was such an exciting interview to watch all that stuff.

PHILLIPS: Let's do it again.

CRAWFORD: Thank you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right Michael. My honor.
**Courtesy of**

"May Your Hopes and Dreams Always Be Carried on Eagles' Wings"-Michael Crawford