January 05, 2013
Story from KISS: MONSTER - The Official Album and Tour Magazine #2

Paul Stanley wore a different kind of disguise on stage as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

By Chris Alexander with Tim Sullivan

Photos by Michael Cooper

The year is 1999: a significant year in KISStory as it saw the release of the feature film DETROIT ROCK CITY itself coming hot on the heels of the band’s 19th studio album PSYCHO CIRCUS and several sold out world tours. But for Paul Stanley, 99 marked an even great personal achievement, that of his starring role as the Phantom in the long running Toronto production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash stage musical THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

Stanley’s turn as The Phantom played out night from May to August, returning in September to October on the stage of the historic Pantages Theatre (now the Cannon) on Toronto’s Yonge Street and as this writer can attest, no previous incarnation anywhere of the play commanded such a unique response. Show after show, a diverse group of Phantom-philes, curious tourists and most uniquely, hardcore KISS fans in full make-up, many of whom flew in from all corners of the globe to see their hero sing The Music of the Night, descended upon the Pantages. It was the ultimate hybrid of higher culture and flamboyant rock and roll.

How do I know? Well, I was an usher in that very theatre. A KISS fan thrilling to this bizarre and brilliant turn of events, every evening. Years later, myself and filmmaker/DRC co-producer Tim Sullivan ventured to Paul’s Hollywood home to discuss KISS, the success of SONIC BOOM, the planning of MONSTER…and here, in this portion of our chat, his memorable turn as the tragic, disfigured genius committing murder in the name of love in the bowels of a Paris opera house.

KISS Magazine: How did your role in PHANTOM come to pass?

PAUL STANLEY: Well, I can tell you that I had to audition like anyone else, personally, for Andrew Lloyd Webber.

KISS Magazine: Really?

PAUL STANLEY: Of course! What…do you think Lloyd Webber was like “get me Bozo the Clown”? No…I had to prove I could do it.

KISS Magazine: After your first run, your contract ended and the next Phantom, Canadian actor Jeff Hyslop, entered. Then suddenly, a mere month later, it was announced that you would return.

STANLEY: Yes. And not any criticism on poor Jeff Hyslop but…I think what happened is that they essentially bought out his contract to bring me back…

KISS Magazine: PHANTOM was produced by the troubled LIVENT, the man behind that company the notorious and fascinating – and now imprisoned - Garth Drabinsky. Did you ever meet him?

STANLEY: I did. I met Garth at a kind of secret meeting with him and the staff before the last show. It was an interesting time. LIVENT was still running the show and Garth was out after the serious legal issues and controversy, but everybody still had this allegiance to him. The new people – now, they were not the villains exactly – but they weren’t thought of having gone the distance that Garth did. An interesting guy.

KISS Magazine: There is the odd clip of you as The Phantom on you tube, but I’ve yet to see a decent quality video surface. Do you have one?

STANLEY: One of the beauties of starring in a show that’s pulling a million dollars per week is that, if you put a video camera out there, well, no one would dare try turning it off. So, yes, I have the video of the whole show…

KISS Magazine: What did you think of Joel Schumacher’s film version?

STANLEY: Ugh…when I saw the movie it was like…like… this is PHANTOM OF THE OPERA meets BEVERLY HILLS 90201. It was hard to watch. It was so misdirected and in skewing it the way they did…well, it was pretty ghastly. I mean, The Phantom walking around with his shirt open like Tom Jones and when the mask comes off he’s got, like a boo boo under his eye. The sword play. I was stunned…

KISS Magazine: I wonder what Lloyd Webber thought of it.

STANLEY: I have no idea. It lost a lot of money. It bombed. But the thing about Andre Lloyd Webber is that we wont have to take up a collection for him. He can afford a few bombs…

KISS Magazine: Did you get any flack from KISS fans when you took the role?

STANLEY: Listen, whenever you’re successful, some people will doubt you because failure is threatened by success. And if you’ve succeeded failure will look at the idea that you’ve succeeded as having to have an undertone of something unscrupulous. I have always believed that those who tell you something is impossible are those who have failed. I’ve always believed in what I do. I’ve never been bothered by bad reviews. The only time is if I agree with it and there were times that I did…that’s when I knew things had to change.

KISS Magazine: Was it scary taking on a project that was outside of your comfort zone?

STANLEY: When I go out on the wire into the crowd when KISS does LOVE GUN live, that’s scary sometimes too. The greatest source of omnipotence in adrenaline and the greatest source of adrenaline is a crowd. It’s a recipe for stupidity. I have done things in front of a crowd that make me sweat in rehearsal. I think that in general, when we’re complacent we are not moving forward. Nerves are a barometer about going outside of the comfort zone. You define who you are this way…