He may be better known for starring in The Phantom of the Opera but West End actor Earl Carpenter is happy to come out from behind his mask in memory of a Yorkshire music man.
Earl is appearing in A Touch of West End (ATOWE) at the Royal Armouries, Leeds in May in a performance to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Derek Lee. All proceeds from the one-night-only gig will go to Yorkshire Cancer Research.
“When I was asked to come to Leeds for such a worthy cause I really wanted to do it. It is good to do something for a reason.”
His show includes hits from many West End favourites including Les Miserables and Phantom – a role Earl has become synonymous with.
When Earl Carpenter was 15 years old his dad bought him a copy of the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack to play on his new hi-fi. Little did he know that he would go on to play the eponymous role in its 25th anniversary year.
Despite his undoubted West End success, Earl didn’t particularly want to be an actor when he was young.
“I wanted to be a pilot in the RAF. But I was rubbish at school. I had an interest in drama and so I decided to do theatre studies,” he says.
He joined a drama society and that was it, but it has been no speedy rise to the top of his profession.
“I spent two years doing anything and everything in the theatre. Learning what everyone did and how it all worked.”
He then set up his own theatre company based in Bournemouth.
“I didn’t go to theatre school, instead I gained life experience.”
He did tours, rep, you name it. And he feels that he is a better actor as a result.
“I think it is important to know how the theatre really works and to understand that there is a whole team of people in different jobs making me look good. The problem sometimes with people straight out of drama school is that they don’t seem to know what everyone does.”
As well as playing the Phantom, he is also renowned as Peron in Evita, Khashoggi in We Will Rock You, Darryl van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick, Danillo in The Merry Widow; Beast and Gaston in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Javert in Les Miserables.
Despite his many accolades Earl says his feet are still firmly on the ground.
“It isn’t difficult to keep grounded purely because of how I got here. It’s a constant struggle. You have to constantly reinvent yourself. You are also fighting against the big names in TV.
“I may have a footing in musical theatre, but if I was to put in for something new it would be difficult. Producers seem to want a name.
“Then there is the knowledge that in a few weeks time I will be coming out of Phantom and then I’m out of a job.” Well, not quite.
Straight after leaving Phantom, Earl brings his successful ATOWE to Leeds and he is also touring with his show the Three Phantoms.
It was Derek Lee’s son David Lee who decided to ask Earl to bring his show to Leeds.
“My dad was very well known in the theatrical world in Leeds. When he died of cancer 25 years ago I really wanted to organise a concert to raise money for Yorkshire Cancer Research, but it never happened,” explains David.
“So to mark the 25th anniversary of his death I decided we should do something and I am really excited about what we have planned.”
Champagne reception for guests
A Touch of West End is on Sunday, May 5, when ear Carpenter and five other West End stars, perform songs from hit shows. A black-tie event for 500 guests includes a champagne reception and three-course meal before the show. The son of Derek Lee, had the idea of bringing the show to Leeds.Tickets £65/£55 (Concessions £45) from www.leedsgrandtheatre.com.