describe Hugh as a heart with legs. He's a walking heart, like the
giant heart costume I wore when I was a singing telegram delivery
person. My valentine outfit was this padded pink heart with a place
for my arms to come out, and that's exactly how I see him. A big
heart with legs." - Alice Ripley,
Hugh Panaro has been described as
"the leader of Broadway’s dwindling supply of great leading men."
Critically lauded and adored by fans, he demonstrates versatility,
charisma, tremendous vocal talent, and, in the words of one former
costar, movie star good looks.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 19, 1964, Hugh's love of
animals interested him in a career in veterinary medicine. However,
after seeing his first Broadway show, Hugh immediately fell in love with
theatre. His first role, Friedrich, in a regional production of
The Sound of Music,
came when he was twelve.
Hugh, who was a church organist at
Saint Helena's Roman Catholic Church during high school and accompanied
his mother on the organ or piano at weddings, studied music at Temple
University (BA in voice, class of '85)
Moving to New York City immediately after graduation, Hugh quickly found
a role in
I Have Found Home.
He played a German immigrant in the show which took place on a ferry to
the Statue of Liberty. He later obtained his Equity card with the role
of Mary Sunshine in regional production of
In 1988, Hugh originated the role of
Marius Pontmercy in the first national touring production of
moving up to the Broadway company several months later. He was then cast
by Hal Prince as Raoul de Chagny, the romantic young hero in Sir Andrew
Lloyd Webber's hit musical
The Phantom of the Opera.
His next role was as Julian Craster in Jules Styne's final musical, the
ill-fated The Red Shoes
in 1993. Subsequent roles included Gaylord Ravenal in
(Broadway, Toronto, and London), Buddy Foster in the original production
and David in the independent film,
1999, Hugh returned to the Majestic Theatre, this time to don the iconic
Phantom of the Opera. Six months
later, he originated the title role in the U.S. tour of
Following the tour, Hugh drew praise for
Blondes and Merrily We Roll Along
in Los Angeles and as Anthony Hope in the Kennedy Center's 2002
production of Sweeney Todd.
After an off-Broadway run in LaChiusa's
Hugh returned to play The Phantom in 2003. One of the most popular
actors to fill the role, he remained with the show until October 2005,
leaving to play the seductive, conflicted vampire
in the Elton John musical based on Anne Rice's successful novels.
autumn 2006, Hugh was invited to play Bobby in the 5th Avenue Theater
(Seattle) production of Sondheim's pivotal musical,
His performance was praised as "exquisitely accomplished." Following
Hugh has appeared in a number of concerts, including benefit shows at
Joe's Pub, Birdland Jazz Club, and City Center.
he starred as Jean Valjean in the Walnut Street Theatre's outstanding
a role which earned him praise from audiences and reviewers alike, as
well as the Barrymore award. The following spring, he played the
title role in the 5th Avenue Theatre's production of
Sunday In The Park With George.
He then starred in
again at The Walnut in his native Philly, and also maintained an active
concert schedule performing with symphonies around the world.
On September 7, 2010, Hugh returned
to Broadway's Majestic Theatre to again play the iconic Phantom and led
the show's historic 25th anniversary performance.
In 2012, he was the
recipient of the prestigious Edwin Forrest Award.
During an extended break from Phantom
in 2013, he was again seen as Jean Valjean in
The Muny's summer production of
costar Norm Lewis). He left the role of The Phantom in May of
2014. His debut album is in the works at last.
His genuine charm and humility, matched with a gorgeous smile, have
made him a true fan favorite at many stage doors. While Hugh
embraced a career in the theatre over one as a veterinarian, he
remains a self-described animal freak with a particular fondness for