George Lee Andrews is about to leave a job after 23 years. That’s not a big deal for the average person, but for an actor in a Broadway play, where limited runs and short contracts are the norm, it’s a biggie. So big, Phantom of the Opera’s Andrews holds a record for being the actor to spend the longest time performing in a single Broadway show — 23 years to be exact. That’s 9,382 performances, 40 contract renewals, four parts, and — minus a few vacations, some sick days, and two breaks to work on other projects — nearly half of his 50-year acting career. With only three shows left (his last performance is tomorrow night), Andrews talked to EW about keeping the gig for so long.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you know you were in Phantom for the long haul?
GEORGE LEE ANDREWS: At first I said, “I’ll stay in it for two years.” And then after two years, I was bumped up to a principal role. And I said, “Well, I’ll stay for two more years.” After those two years, I was enjoying myself. I didn’t feel any boredom. I didn’t feel tired. I was having a great time. So I looked around and I said to myself, “Where else would I want to be? I’ll stay as long as it feels good.” And it has never not felt good.
What is it like speaking or singing, and hearing, the same lines and songs eight times a week for 24 years?
You know what? It must be fine. It’s not very often in the theater that you get an orchestra of that size anymore. That’s a thrill. I’m always trying to do it a little better every night. The cast changes quite a lot, people are sick, new people come in, people go on vacation. That helps too.
Is that how you keep it interesting?
I don’t have any trouble doing that. To me, it’s totally interesting to walk out on stage in front of 1,600 people again and again and play my part the best I can. I come alive in this character.
Do you still screw up?
I do. A little, every now and then, I don’t know what you would say, I have a little brain fart. It’s live theater. We’re all human.
When you look back on your life story, do you have any regrets about not changing it up a bit?
No, I’ve had a great life. When I was a youngster in show business, if someone asked me, “What do you want do with yourself?” I’d say, “I’d like to go to New York and be in a Broadway show.” I never said, “I want to be a star.” Be careful what you wish for.
You have a family of actors — your wife, two daughters — and now your son-in-law, Aaron Galligan-Stierle, is taking over your part as stage manager André.
That just came about in the coincidence of Broadway. One day he told me, “You know what? My agent got me an audition for your part!” They only knew [our connection] after the audition process already started.
What’s your plan? Are you going to retire?
No, I’ll be out there auditioning. I’m definitely ready to try something new.
Why did you decide to end it now?
I didn’t. The company decided they want to finally make some changes in the casting. And that’s the way it goes. That’s show business.
So you would have stayed even longer?