Unmasking Fear: What The Phantom Leading Lady Learned From Ten Years On Broadway

Unmasking Fear:

What The Phantom Leading Lady Learned From Ten Years On Broadway

There is nothing like the feeling of sitting in a velvet seat, playbill in hand, waiting as the lights beginning to dim and knowing you are about to be immersed into a theatrical production. For the tens of millions who attend Broadway shows each year, this world of dancing queens and about 525,000,600 showstopping singers, is a powerful, artistic escape from reality. Now, imagine being one of the talents, sitting on the other side of the curtain: hearing the chatter of the excited audience. As you listening to the theater’s go-to announcement telling viewers to put their phones away, the plucks from the orchestra slowly begin crescendoing into the debut song. You are about to go onto the stage and put on a show for hundreds of people and it’s at once thrilling and outrageously nerve-wrecking. Nobody knows this better than Sandra Joseph, the longest-running Christine in The Phantom of the Opera history.

Sandra Joseph in Phantom of the Opera.

Joseph was bitten by the acting bug at a young age. Singing and performing have been a goal of hers since she was just a girl. This dream didn’t come without strings attached, the actress had to overcome crippling stage-fright to achieve her aspirations. Joseph truly persevered and proved her endurance, coming out of 10-years on Broadway as the longest running Christine in history. 

“The big challenge was the mental one, to show up, six nights a week and keep the performance fresh, alive, and convincing everyone that this performance is new,” says Joseph.

Although Joseph no longer plays Christine, she still uses the lessons she learned from her experience to inspire others through talks and speaking events, and wrote about it in her book, Unmasking What Matters: 10 Life Lessons From 10 Years on Broadway. There is something to be said about having to push aside fear every single night and sing your heart out in front of a live audience. The singer says that overcoming her anxieties has been a lifelong journey for her. To do this, she says, “There’s a mental toughness and element of tenacity to work through fear. I didn’t want fear to stop me from achieving my goals.”

Challenges of being on Broadway

Singing, acting and dancing the same songs, moves, and dialogues every night is not an easy feat. Joseph expressed that she was lucky enough not to have voice issues throughout her Broadway run, as many actresses are forced out of ‘the business’ due to things like vocal nodules and strain. So what was the Phantom leading lady’s biggest challenge? On top of overcoming stage fright, her most prominent problem was keeping up an evergreen perspective every single night. Playing the same characters, with the same songs, dances, and lines can quickly become tedious. 

“There’s a mental toughness and element of tenacity to work through fear. I didn’t want fear to stop me from achieving my goals.”

While Joseph loved her time in the spotlight, she has no plans of returning to Broadway anytime soon. Instead, she has decided to harness her stage presence as a speaker rather than a performer. Being on stage as yourself is a vastly different experience than playing a character. “It was a challenge to step out of the mask of a character, but I’m using my tools to share a message that is an even better use of my gift than being apart of Broadway,” the actress shared when asked if she has future plans to return to center stage.

While a change of pace sounds like a reasonable enough thing to do, not everyone understands Joseph’s decision to leave the theatre. “People don’t understand not wanting to return. This is the way to make a difference, but I was hurt by the disappointment,” said Joseph sadly.

“We are not here to wear the identity that other people want us to wear. People feel like they never got the chance to be who they really are. It gets easier as we get older. There will be a level of discontent until we are able to get to the truest part of who we are without apology.”

Life After Christine

Joseph has spent a lot of post-Broadway time writing. Citing “Sunday in the Park with George,” the author says that she enjoys the ‘make a hat out of nothing’ metaphor for writing. “The personal fulfillment of creating something out of nothing. As an artist, there’s nothing more fulfilling. The act of creation is incredibly rewarding. It felt very naked, but it helped me step into my own life, even more, to say, this is who I am, and this is what I want to share,” says the multi-talented woman. “Hearing from people who have read it and realizing its resonating and people who are now going after things they were very afraid to go after. Planting a seed in some way.”

Joseph is all sunshine these days. She is enjoying the slower pace of living in California near her two best friends. While Joseph may have left show business to pursue other talents, her husband, who she met when he played the Phantom to her Christine, is still is taking the stage in a production of Book of Mormon. After finding her passion in helping others, discovering her love for speaking and writing a book on ways to conquer and move through doubt, she’s living the good life free of fear and unapologetically happy.

Amanda Jaguden

Amanda is a writer living in New York City. She loves reading, coffee, traveling and anything that empowers women.

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