I was exposed to “The Phantom of the Opera” at a very young age and have been a huge fan ever since. I saw it first, at the age of 10, and have seen it four more times over the years. It was also the first show I saw on Broadway. This musical has been running for nearly 27 years on Broadway with nearly 15 actors who have portrayed the main role of the Phantom. On January 12, 2015 it was announced that James Barbour would take over the role after current Phantom, Norm Lewis.
After the news of Barbour’s casting was announced, it was fairly exciting. After months of anticipation to find out who would be taking over the most sought out role as the Phantom, fans finally got their big reveal! A very short time later, the “Phantom” fans AKA “Phans,” started to attack James Barbour on social media. It was not because he was replacing Lewis, but because he appears to have a tarnished record. According to this, he was accused of molestation, spent 60 days in jail, and plead guilty of misdemeanor charges.
According to Twitter, there seem to be a lot of upset “Phans” because the majority of them are young women, in their 20’s or younger. Many of them are not happy with the new casting choice and are calling for a change to remove Barbour from the main role. The “Phans” are going as far as tagging the show as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber to make their voice heard. I think the biggest concern from fans is that Barbour would be working with younger women on the show and given his history of molestation, I think I would be too.
I can see why the “Phans” are uncomfortable, it is a very difficult situation, and it is taking the story of “Phantom” to a new level of weird, because the Phantom is a stalker who seduces Christine.
There are many young women, raging from teenagers and up, who love the Phantom. They see the character as this misunderstood man who just wants to be loved. They portray him a romantic character. In the 1980’s, the Phantom was considered a sex icon when the musical first opened. It may or may not cause controversy for Barbour to portray such an intimate role with his history of child molestation.
As a Christian myself, I am not called to make judgments or judge Barbour on his past. I do not know him, and I do not follow his career. What I see is a man who is looking for a second chance, and “The Phantom of the Opera” is a popular musical, therefore a potential fresh start for Barbour. I would hope that the decision by Webber to hire Barbour was one taken very seriously given his history of child molestation.
Do I agree with his past actions? Absolutely not, but it is not my place to judge him because of that alone.