“When I was seven years old, my parents gave me a little puppet stage and eight puppets—within a matter of months, I was doing birthday parties and carnivals,” says John Easterlin. And, it seems, that since that day he was destined for a life in the theatre.
Easterlin now plays Piangi in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s nearly 30-year hit The Phantom of the Opera. As the leading tenor of the Opera Garnier, Piangi is a traditionalist when it comes to his opera and its star—his loyalties lie with Carlotta rather than ingenue Christine Daae—but his air is also a bit of comedy for Phantom’s audiences.
After his puppetry days, Easterlin became a spiel tenor, or character tenor, in the opera world, and he thinks of Piangi as a character tenor, too.
Though he provides comedy, he takes his role seriously and immerses himself in the part from the outside in. “In my dressing room there are lithographs and paintings of the real [Palais] Garnier, there are draperies on the window—even things like my makeup boxes are made to look like something from the turn of the century,” he says.
Before he steps onto the Majestic Theatre stage, he is “already standing and feeling like the period, like this person, like this artist.”
Hear more about Easterlin’s story and watch him get into costume and makeup in the full video above.