Bring Him Home
Broadway star and Philadelphia native Hugh Panaro returns home to star in the lead role of Jean Valjean in the Walnut Street Theatre's original production of "Les Miserables."  He spoke with WHERE Editor Karen Gross.
WHERE:  You starred as Marius in "Les Miserables" on Broadway and now you've been cast in the lead role of Jean Valjean at the Walnut Street Theatre.  You clearly have a special history with this show.
HUGH PANARO:  "Les Miserables" was my Broadway debut.  I think I heard 11 different Jean Valjeans sing "Bring Him Home."  To be honest, never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be Jean Valjean.  Obviously you have to play the part how you understand it, but I have so many great role models.
WHERE:  How do you feel about being in the Walnut Street Theatre's new version of "Les Miserables?"
HUGH PANARO:  I met the director [Mark Clements] and he was so eloquent in explaining what his vision was for this new production.  It's very brave because people that love "Les Miserables" may have it in their head a certain way and it's going to challenge them.

WHERE:  You played both Raoul and The Phantom in "The Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway.  Can you tell us about that?
HUGH PANARO:  I'm so grateful to Harold Prince for casting me as Raoul many years ago.  [The Phantom] wasn't necessarily a role I had my eyes on, it just goes to show you that you don't necessarily know the roles that will be the best for you.  That's why Harold Prince is a genius.  He knew I could do it before I did.
WHERE:  How was it touring with Barbra Streisand through Europe last summer?
HUGH PANARO:  She was lovely, totally professional and fun.  I learned so much from being on stage with her.  And I got to see Europe at the same time.
WHERE:  What do you recall most about Philly?
HUGH PANARO:  I still remember the Franklin Institute (222 N. 20th St.) and walking through the Giant Heart there when I was little.    There's the Liberty Bell, of course, and Elfreth's Alley.  I remember the ladies in period dress and the cobblestones;  I thought it was the coolest thing.  I love the Philadelphia Museum of Art's architecture and the lights on Boathouse Row.  I'm also addicted to Philly cheesesteaks.
WHERE:  Any favorite neighborhoods?
HUGH PANARO:  I love the family-owned businesses on Chestnut Hill, like Robertson's Flowers (8501 Germantown Ave.).  I got my prom flowers there.  I also like South Street because it's funky.  I like the thrift shops and mom-and-pop stores.
WHERE:  How does it feel to be coming back to perform in your hometown?
HUGH PANARO:  It feels great because my family is in the Philadelphia area.  My aunt always brings bus loads of people at every show and I'm so excited for once she doesn't have to schlep to New York.  And I've gotten so many e-mails and calls from people from the time I was thirteen years old doing dinner theatre.



















- from Where magazine

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