Top 10 Actors Playing the Phantom

With hundreds of actors, including understudies, playing the lead role of the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera in its many productions throughout the world, it is a hard task to choose the top ten talented men who have stepped behind the mask to portray the enigmatic musical genius. We undertook this difficult task, however, and here is our list of top Ten Phantom’s who have played the role in various productions throughout the world.

Anthony Crivello

10. Anthony Crivello

Anthony Crivello originated the Las Vegas production of The Phantom of the Opera, and is tenth on our list. Originally appearing in the role alongside Brent Barrett, alternating the lead, Crivello is now, as of 2008, the sole Phantom in the Vegas show.

Anthony Warlow

9. Anthony Warlow

Ninth on our list is the original Phantom in the Australian production of the musical, which opened in 1990. Anthony Warlow played the role on and off until 2009, as he reprised his role in 2007 at the Melbourne Princess Theatre when The Phantom of the Opera reopened. Warlow also played the part on the two-year tour of the show which visited Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide, as well as New Zealand. He appeared as a guest at the 25th Anniversary Concert of The Phantom of the Opera in October 2011 at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

8. Simon Bowman

Simon Bowman shot to recognition after appearing in the hit musical Miss Saigon, and then went on to play the part of Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera. Later, he was chosen in the leading role and performed at the 25th Anniversary celebrations of the show in December 2011 in Manchester.

7. Colm Wilkinson

Originally from Ireland, Colm Wilkinson performed as the original Phantom in the Canadian production of the show in 1989 at the Pantages Theatre, now Canon Theatre, in Toronto. He has lived in the Canadian city ever since. Wilkinson also appeared during the 25th celebrations of the show alongside other former Phantoms at the Royal Albert Hall.

6. Earl Carpenter

Earl Carpenter is the current Phantom at Her Majesty’s until 17th March 2012 but will continue in the role on the UK tour of the show in October. Earl first played the role from 2005 until 2007 and reprised the part in December 2011 for a short run of four months. He was also part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations at the Royal Variety Performance at The Lowry in Manchester, singing the title song of The Phantom of the Opera alongside three other former Phantoms and Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger.

Peter Karrie

5. Peter Karrie

Having played the role of the Phantom in London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vancouver and Toronto, as well as on the UK tour in cities such as Manchester, Peter Karrie is a veteran when it comes to portraying the character. Loved by Phantom ‘Phans’, he was twice voted in 1994 and 1995 as the favourite Phantom by members of The Phantom of the Opera Appreciation Society.

 4. John Owen-Jones

Forth in our list is John-Owen Jones, who was chosen to play the part of the Phantom in the West End in 2001. Jones is special in that he has performed in the role for the longer than any other London Phantom, as he left after nearly four years and 1,400 performances. As part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations of the show, Jones performed the title song and The Music of the Night at The Royal Albert Hall performance in October 2011 alongside other past Phantoms.

Gerard Butler

3. Gerard Butler

Hollywood actor Gerard Butler has never portrayed the role of the Phantom on stage, but he was cast in the 2003 movie of the musical by director Joel Schumacher. Although Butler has no previous musical experience, he began to take singing lessons and auditioned for Andrew Lloyd Webber who was impressed by his performance. Butler was praised for his role as the iconic masked musician and it brought him recognition in the world of film.

2. Ramin Karimloo

Ramin is popular amongst Phantom fans. In 2003, he played a different leading role in the West End production of The Phantom of the Opera as he performed as Raoul, and in 2007 he took over as the Phantom and performed during the 21st anniversary in the role. Recognised by fans of the musical for bringing a different interpretation of the character to the show, Ramin received a Theatregoers’ Choice Award Nomination for Best Actor in a Take Over Role, that year. Ramin went on to originate the part of the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel Love Never Dies which premiered at the Adelphi Theatre in 2010, and one of his greatest honours was being chosen to perform as the Phantom alongside his Love Never Dies co-star Sierra Boggess as Christine in the 25th anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera which was staged at the Royal Albert Hall and streamed live to cinemas across the world.

 1. Michael Crawford

Topping our list of Phantom’s is, of course, the very first Phantom, Michael Crawford. Originating the role back in 1986 at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, Crawford saw great success following his role opposite Sarah Brightman as Christine Daae, winning the 1986 Olivier Award   for Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical. Crawford reprised his role on Broadway in 1988, winning a Tony Award for his performances. In 1991, 1,300 performances and three and a half years later, Michael Crawford left The Phantom of the Opera. He will always be known by fans of the musical as the original and best Phantom. Are you a Michael Crawford fan? Join in the chat and keep up to date with news on the singer at the Michael Crawford international fan association.

Who would you have put on the list? Do you think that there is a deserving Phantom missing or should the number one spot be given to someone else? Add your comments here!

What do you think?

48 thoughts on “Top 10 Actors Playing the Phantom

  1. Heather says:

    Hugh Panaro should be on this list. He is one of the most brilliant Phantoms ever, definitely my favorite!

  2. LetTheSongTakeFlight says:

    I don’t think that Gerry deserved #3. Although he was the first Phantom I’ve seen, I don’t think that he did the character justice. His vocal skills in particular are extremely lacking, especially for a character whose singing is so impirtant.

    I agree that Michael and Ramin deserved #1 and #2. But JOJ should have been #3.

  3. Crysania says:

    I’ll go further than “LetTheSongTakeFlight” and say Gerard Butler doesn’t belong on ANY list of Phantoms, unless it’s “The 10 Ten Worst Phantoms ever” list.

    Ramin is ok but I wouldn’t consider him anywhere near the best. He needs to mature more. Michael, JOJ, Peter Karrie, Anthony Warlow and Earl Carpenter all definitely belong there. I’ll even say Colm Wilkinson though he’s not my cup of tea (and I say this having seen him in the role). But there are some fantastic American Phantoms missing off this list, like Hugh Panaro and Brad Little.

  4. Christine Marie says:

    I would have loved to have seen John Cudia and Hugh Panero on this list. Not a personal fan of Crawford, though he does have my respect for creating the role, he was far from being in my top 10. I wonder where they are getting these figures from…

  5. Christine says:

    I think it you take Butler off the list and add Hugh Panaro somewhere, this would be a fair list. Butler did not do the roll justice and Panaro is fantastic.
    I’m just glad to see my favorite Phantom of all time up there. Peter Karrie will always be my favorite.

  6. Sharon E. Cathcart says:

    Franc d’Ambrosio, who played the role in San Francisco for *many* years, in excess of 3000 performances, is notably missing from this list. I’m glad to see my favorite, Earl Carpenter, but there are a lot of gaps (where are Brad Little and Hugh Panaro, just to name two?).

  7. Elisabeth says:

    Mikael Samuelson, who played The Phantom i Sweden 1989-1995 is absolutely the best Phantom I have ever seen! I miss him on the list. Mr Butler has nothing to do on the list!

  8. Laura says:

    JOJ is the number one and Crawford should not be in the Top ten, he’s the worst phantom ever!

  9. Meghan says:

    Though I do agree with the majority of this list, I don’t think Gerard Butler really deserved a place on it; you can’t compare him to other greats that have taken the stage, it’s not fair to him or the other Phantoms. Add Gary Mauer or Hugh Panaro, they’re quite fantastic and remembered as such on the Majestic stage!

  10. CeliaB says:

    Colm Wilkinson deserves a higher rank, not just for his sensual portrayal and incredible voice, but for the fact that he, not Michael Crawford, was the first Phantom. Lloyd Webber created the role with him in mind and Wilkinson was the Phantom in the 1985 Sydmonton workshop and festival where ALW’s Phantom debuted. He was already cast as Jean Valjean in Les Miserable and so could not open the play on the West End. I agree with Gerard Butler as #3 because, even though his voice is not technically the best, his acting was superb – tragic, sensual, charismatic.

    1. Terri says:

      Michael was the first Phantom. The only work Colm did before Michael was the demos of the songs at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s little theater. Michael opened the show in London, New York and LA. He is the first and foremost Phantom. All other players are a distant second. You want sensual? Michael defined the role and breathed life in to Erik. Colm is ok but not the best. Gerard, not even a school boy singer. Not worth talking about.

  11. PhantomLove says:

    Who made up this list? Someone’s who’s deaf? Butler can’t sing AT ALL. And how completely irresponsible of you to omit Hugh Panaro. Hugh is the BEST BROADWAY Phantom ever.

    Shame on you.

  12. Leah Collins says:

    I think the reason they probably posted Gerard Butler up there, is that I’m sure his role in the 2004 movie peaked a lot of interest in PotO in people that didn’t already have interest in it. Which, I think is a good thing. And, I wouldn’t say his singing was bad, it just wasn’t classically trained as everybody expected it to be.

    I used to really think that nobody could and would ever outdo Michael Crawford, but I do have to admit I’m entirely smitten with Ramin’s take on the Phantom. He puts so much emotion into that role, as they say, I’m surprised he has any left after each show. His singing actually makes my heart ache at the sad parts.

    Wondeful job to all the Phantoms on the list, especially my dear favorites ranked #1 and #2.

  13. Katherine says:

    Michael Crawford will always be my favorite. I never even got to see him on stage because the show came out when I was both (haha) but the amount of emotion I can hear just from the CD tells me he was amazing. But I definitely agree Hugh Panaro should be on the list! I finally got to see it in Broadway and his performance blew me away.
    Even the description for Butler you guys put for him describes why he shouldn’t be on this list. All of these Phantoms are experienced in their art and Butler didn’t even sing before the movie. He did decent, but definitely not on the top ten.

  14. Lindsay says:

    Colm Wilkinson definitely deserved a top three spot, but I am SO happy to see you put Ramin up there in second… he deserves it!! Aside from his absolutely stunning voice, he has been one of the very few who managed to re-define the character (so well)!

  15. Katie says:

    What about Davis Gaines?? He played the role both in LA and NY and totaled more performances than Michael himself. Having seen Michael, Davis and now Ramin, my top 3 are Ramin, Davis and Michael.

  16. Monique Hennessy says:

    How is Gerard Butler 3rd and Anthony Warlow on 9th??!! What the?? Why is Gerard Butler even on this list?

  17. Kay says:

    Come on, the favorite Phantom could be the acting as well as the singing. I think Gerard Butler was very good in the style of the original, Steve Harley. This was originally a “rocker” part until Crawford changed it up. Doing it on the big screen with closeups is a lot different than the stage versions so acting wise, I think Gerard excelled at bringing the “sexy” back and making most of us choose Phantom over Raoul. I know all the arguments, he was supposed to be a lot older, etc. but the fans of Ramin can’t agree with that. I thought Ramin did a great job of the stage version. I haven’t seen JOJ do the part on stage, but his voice in the 25th anniversary “blew me away”!

  18. Bobbie says:

    Why has JOJ been left out and he’s much better than Gerry Butler

  19. Haley says:

    Okay, I am pretty content with this list. Except for the addition of Bowman and Butler. Really, I never liked Bowman as Chris, and I didn’t even know he at one point even played Phantom, really he is not nearly as liked as other Phantoms. Gerard, really?!? I give him the benefit that his acting was pretty good, and that he gave international awareness to the musical, but really not top 10 material. I do say we need to have some more Broadway Phantoms up there! I would also switch Ramin with JOJ, even though I believe they are almost as equally good! But at least they got the basic and the most important thing right on this list, and that is making Michael Crawford #1! He created the role, and he embodied the Phantom with his voice, his acting, and his soul! Pretty good list overall!

  20. Gabrielle says:

    Gerard beat John Owen Jones and Earl Carpenter. Tisk Tisk. And I personally do not like Micheal Crawford. Ramin should of been 1 hands down.

  21. Natty says:

    really hoped John Cudia would be on this list as like #3 (he’s one of my favourites!) I do agree with most of this list though.. (:

  22. Christine Daae says:

    Davis Gaines!!!

  23. Sabbie says:

    What’s wrong with this ranking?

  24. Barbara says:

    Oh my ……as a non-English audience, I have to say that there must have some mistakes and misunderstandings in this list.

    I don’t think this list is fair and objective. First of all, how can you put actors of musicals and movies together to compare ? What they needs of performance are very different.!!! And, what’s the basement of this rank? The acting? Or singing? I just think that some actors not deserve the ranking. As other comment said, this list miss some better actors, especially the Broadway’s.

    POTO is not a musical that you can write a review in a casual way. I think this article’s writer should tell that why he ranked like this.

  25. Ed says:

    Scott Davies should be on the top 10 list, as should Mark Mckerracher. You can get rid off Ramin Karimloo, he should never have been cast in the role, and John Owen Jones, he was a good Jean Valjean in the early days – late 90’s, but over time became complacent and stale. His portrayal of the Phantom is vocally powerful, but that’s the only positive.

  26. DottieV says:

    You are all wrong. Dave Willetts who took over not long after Michael Crawford in London was the best phantom ever. His voice and portrayal of Phantom through his voice and acting was brilliant. He also played Jean Valjean in Les Mis. Anyone out there agree?

  27. Dominic Bartolone says:

    I was able to see your #1, #3, and #10 selections perform the Phantom. I must say none of the other performers have anything on Anthony Crivello. He performed the role of Phantom with memorable grace and elegance. Also I do not think you should compare a movie actor’s role to a live performer. Again Anthony’s performance (acting and singing) was every bit as moving and more entertaining than even your #1 choice Michael Crawford.

  28. Duffy Tarantino says:

    I saw #1 and #10 an I loved both. I nust say you cannot understand how good a job they did until you see another performer do this role as i did when Anthony Crivello was out sick. Then you realize the difference of a top ten performer and some who is just ok. I agree that while I loved the movie Gerard Butler doesn’t belong on ANY list of Phantoms.

  29. vincent jerosa says:

    Really?! I mean really?! You listed Anthony Crivello as number ten! Are you kidding? Or, did you not proof read the numerical order before you posted your list? I’ll tell you what, with no disrespect to the many actor’s who have played the role, I believe a more accurate list would be Anthony Crivello (first place).
    Michael Crawford (second place).
    the remaining actor’s are tied for third place.
    Mr. Crivello, mastered the role of the Phantom. When he is on stage you can’t help but to give him all of your focus. His movements on stage are precise and with emotion. His voice is impeccable. He is the reason many audience members see the show multiple times!

  30. Sally says:

    No list of 10 can include all of the fine, deserving Phantom actors, but to have Gerard Butler in the place of one of them is ridiculous.

  31. Billie Eaton says:

    Gerard Butler should not be on the list. Michael Crawford, THE BEST is rightly #1. When we saw Anthony Crivello in Vegas we sat in the front row. His grimacing and teeth gnashing were iritating-not good theatre, in my opinion. BTW, when we were in the hotel and also outside in the parking area, whose singing did we hear? Michael’s POTO’s cd, not Anthony!

  32. Mike Heisler says:

    I have not heard all of these Phantoms so I cannot really say if most of them deserve to be on the list, but one thing I can say is that Anthony Crivello should not be at the bottom of the list, more towards the top of the list. Anthony has the intensity that role needs, not to mention an amazing singing voice.

    I put Anthony Crivello at number one since it was his performance that made me the Phan I am today in addition to that of all the ones I have seen, he is the most believable in that role.

    And my guess the reason you hear the recording from Michael Crawford is that was the only recording at the time the play opened.

  33. Erin says:

    See Anthony Crivello this year before the Vegas show closes. You are in for the treat of your life! His voice is perfectly suited for one playing the role of an angel of music and the passion and emotion he brings to the role is unequaled! He is definitely the number one talent on this list.

  34. S. Kate says:

    Gerard Butler should not be on this list, let alone ranked above John Owen Jones.

    Uncool.

    Definitely approve of the top 2. Have only heard Michael Crawford sing, as opposed to watching Karimloo. Very different voices. They both win.

  35. CarolLynn says:

    Davis Gaines was only mentioned one other time in all these postings?!! Wow. He really belong somewhere on this list. He was excellent in L.A. and I understand he did a great job as Raoul in New York. I was a Michael Crawford snob when I bought The Phantom DVD. It took a while but you ride Butler kind of grew on me but he doesn’t belong here. How about making a Top-20 list and just leave room for more great singers?

  36. pony says:

    brad little should be in. he is precise on the words when singing with lots of emotion

  37. Bob Raab says:

    I attended only 17 performances of Phantom in Los Angelas.
    I heard an interview with a woman who has attended 135 and that was two years before Phantom closed in LA. Michael Crawford was, well, enthralling. Robert Guillaume was an interesting Phantom but, for me, didn’t have the voice or the passion. Then came Davis Gaines. He had the voice. He had the passion. Wow, did he have the passion. The final scene, when Christine has left with Rouel, and the Phantom is in agony. Well, I saw it 5 or 6 times and it brought tears to my eyes. It was the heart break we have all experienced at the end of a love that we wanted to keep forever. I have watched videos of other Phantoms, none come close to Davis Gaines. But then that opinion comes from my life experiences.

  38. JACK says:

    DAVIS GAINES IS THE BEST I HAVE SEEN…HE MOVED ME TO TEARS……& A GREAT SINGER & ACTOR…….JACK ENGLISH…HOLLYWOOD

  39. guest says:

    Okay I honestly have to ask this for the people that have seen a fair amount of different versions of the Phantom. I’ve only seen the 2004 movie and the Royal Albert Hall performance. So why do people hate so much on Gerard? I personally liked his portrayal and his singing voice is my favorite of all the Phantoms I’ve heard sing (which is about 5 of the portrayals.. yeah. small amount, I know). It’s not as operatic. I find his voice really moving and it takes me out of reality whenever I listen to the 2004 soundtrack. I also really enjoy Ramin’s performance. :)

  40. Kent says:

    How many Phantoms have you seen? If hundereds of actors have played the role, how many do you need to see to be even mildly qualified to pass judgement?

    We saw Colm Wilkinson in Toronto, and he was marvelous. He ranks well ahead of the (unknown, but good) actor on the first(?) tour, and ahead of Gerard Butler.

  41. Brian says:

    The list needs to be updated as Cooper Grodin is performing as the phantom on the traveling Broadway tour. He is without a doubt, in the top 10.

  42. Maria E says:

    Where is Hugh Panaro’s name? Is this list a joke? He’s is undoubtedly the best Phantom.

  43. Hannah R says:

    Ramin is the best phantom ever!!! Have you seen him on broadway? He’s gorgeous , he’s an amazing singer and , he just IS the phantom! I love him so awesome!

  44. Kevin says:

    How did you miss Frank D’Ambosio. Was the Phantom in the San Francisco cast for its entire run…at one point, he was the longest running Phantom and one of the best.

  45. Stan says:

    How about James Romick?

  46. Dylan Hopkins says:

    I personally believe that Gerard Butler should be taken off this list completely, putting Ramin Karimloo as the best, and I think there are brilliant phantoms (that aren’t at famous as the ones in this list) that have been left out, for example: Gary Mauer is a brilliant phantom, as is Geronimo Rauch.

  47. Jorge says:

    I’m just glad Crivello is in the top ten. I saw him around 10 times (i know, not very impressive) during his tenure in Vegas, I even saw him in the last week he played the Phantom (yes, he was worth it) and he brought tears to my my eyes every single time during the All I ask of you reprise. Crawford deserves the top spot and I agree Panaro was snubbed, but Crivello is a great actor/singer and deserved at least the tenth spot. He is the reason I’ve traveled all the way to Broadway to watch TPOTO.

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