By Tara Lynn Johnson
For 21st Century Media
The Phantom of the Opera takes off his mask at an event benefitting the Central Bucks West High School Harlequin Club. International singer Ciarán Sheehan, along with Gwen Eagleton and pianist Sue Anderson, will perform “Broadway Unmasked.”
The show features Irish music and Broadway songs, including some from “Phantom.” Sheehan, who was born in Ireland and moved to New Jersey in his teens, performed that role more than 1,000 times on Broadway and in Toronto. Eagleton performed with the “Phantom” national tour.
Sheehan likes sharing his time and talent with school kids.
“It’s a great place to try to cultivate more interest in what we do as artists,” he said.
Both he and Eagleton were happy to participate in the fundraiser because the kids in the drama club are serious about their craft.
“We want to be as supportive of that as we can,” he said. “Plus, we have a lot of bloody fun so it’s great.”
Sheehan has been singing his entire life. He joined a boys’ choir at age 7 and a friend’s rock band in high school. Towards the end of high school, he performed in musicals.
“The man who ran theater program asked me to do shows. I didn’t like musical theater at all,” he said. “I got roped into it and found a new passion.” Musical theater “heightens the storytelling with the power of music,” he said.
In addition to playing the Phantom, Sheehan played Marius in “Les Miserables” on Broadway as well. He also has performed at Carnegie Hall and the National Concert Hall in Dublin.
Accompanist Sue Anderson has known Sheehan for a few years and has performed with him many times. Anderson, who has conducted Broadway pit orchestras and played for shows including “Cats,” said she’s lucky.
“He’s an extremely talented singer and a wonderful human being,” she said. “It makes work a pleasure.”
And she’s looking forward to seeing the audience during songs from “Phantom.”
“Ciarán sounds beautiful,” she said. “Wait until you hear him.”
Students from CB West will join in the festivities briefly, but Sheehan is the main attraction. The performance benefits the school’s drama club. Senior Colleen Smith, who will attend the University of the Arts in the fall, met Sheehan at an acting retreat last summer in upstate New York. Smith, the president of the Harlequin Club, asked Sheehan to perform at the school.
“I had to. How often does one meet the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ in person?” she said. But he is so nice and down-to-earth. I was so excited when he said yes.”
He asked Anderson and Eagleton, who toured with “Phantom” for three and a half years, to join him. Eagleton loves collaboration and working with Sheehan is fun. She likes communicating with the audience, too.
“They provide another character basically – the character that you’re singing aloud to,” she said. “To invite them in is the ultimate.”
Sheehan agrees. Whether he’s performing in a show or singing in concert, what’s most important to him is connection.
“I love the connection that I feel only music can make.” he said. “It’s lovely, too, to look out and see tears on people’s faces or see them laughing. That brings me a lot of joy.”
IF YOU GO
starring Ciarán Sheehan, with Gwen Eagleton and pianist Sue Anderson
7:30 p.m. Friday, May 23
Central Bucks West High School, 375 W. Court St., Doylestown, PA 18901
General Admission tickets: $30; $10 for Central Bucks residents, students and seniors. Tickets available at the door or through http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/654895