‘Phantom’ from campus hits Broadway

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    By Daniel Monson

    From theatre janitor to theatre star, a BYU pre?theatre and media arts major student now has Las Vegas Broadway in his future.

    Ben Hale, 25, recently auditioned for and was awarded the understudy role of Raul in the upcoming Vegas production of Phantom of the Opera.

    Clear Channel Entertainment will produce the 90-minute show with the original ?Phantom? Broadway director Harold Prince, and will open spring 2006.

    ?I knew someday he would find something this big,? said Melanie Peterson, cousin of Hale and BYU alumni. ?I know that someday he will play the phantom. He is destined to.?

    As the understudy and swing for the production, Ben will have to perform several times a week, and must also be prepared to replace any male role if actors get sick or are not present.

    ?I am just getting my feet wet to see if this is what I want to do with this time in my life,? Ben said. ?If I do enjoy it, I would love to stay there, and the pay is really good.?

    Ben grew up in a culture that encouraged his artistic desires. His parents own and operate the Hale Center Theatre in Orem, which opened in 1990. Ben most recently played the role of the Beast in the Hale Center Theatre?s recent production of The Beauty and the Beast.

    ?Last couple of years at our theatre, Ben has been doing a superb job,? said Ben?s father, Cody Hale. ?As a theatre owner, people are constantly asking me where this kid came from, and what?s he doing here? The coolest thing about it is that as soon as he is done, you want to hear more. You can?t get enough, and I think a lot of people feel the same way.?

    Ben will have to take a break from his schooling to attend to the rigors of theatre life. He is expecting to help the production with 10 shows a week, and will probably be given one day off during the work week. The painstaking schedule doesn?t surprise him, and many know Ben as nothing but diligent.

    ?I can?t think of another person that deserves it more, he is a very hard worker,? said BreAnne Folkman, a Music Dance Theatre major who co-starred with Ben as Belle in the Hale Center Theatre production of The Beauty and the Beast. ?One of the best voices I have heard. When he sings the heavens open.?

    Ben attributes most of his success to his BYU professors, who he says gave him sound advice and preparation.

    ?There were quite a few BYU students at the audition,? Ben said. ?The nationally known casting director was blown away by the BYU talent, and said that our professors were to be commended, and that we were a step above the rest.?

    Ben doesn?t know when he will have a chance to continue normal student life after the production. He does enjoy the environment at BYU, and hopes to return. His teachers have said they are excited for his opportunity.

    ?I?m not surprised he got the role, because he has been a passionate performer and has a gorgeous voice,? said Gayle Lockwood, a professor in the music dance theatre department. ?This is not the first time our students have gotten major roles, and this is great for him.?

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