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Gary Mauer 

For nearly 800 performances, Gary Mauer has sung the title role in the tour of The Phantom of the Opera, playing through Sept. 25 at the Fox Theatre. Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical offers Mauer an unlikely home away from home: His wife, Elizabeth Southard, understudies for the romantic lead Christine, putting the couple on stage together twice a week.

Are you and your wife a "package deal" for the casting of the show?

As far as we're concerned, it's a package deal. We've both been associated with the Phantom touring company for 10-11 years. [The cast] is kind of a revolving door, so when these positions opened up, it made perfect sense for our family, and the company to cast us. We also travel with our two children -- Nicholas is 7 and Eden is 4 -- and a 135-pound Neapolitan mastiff named Diva. On Mondays -- travel day for the tour -- Beth and the kids fly with the company and I drive between cities with the dog, pulling a small cargo trailer.

As a performer in such an elaborate musical, do you feel upstaged by the chandelier and the other stage effects?

People want to see the chandelier, but I think it's more than that. You know, the chandelier is slow. It doesn't really drop on the audience -- it sort of chug-chug-chugs down from the ceiling. You have to be really into the play to suspend disbelief and appreciate the effects. It's a sweeping, emotional piece. The heart of the show is bigger than the spectacle.

Is it difficult to perform wearing the Phantom's mask and makeup?

The makeup's a no-brainer -- it fits like a second skin. The mask clips on with a little wire that goes behind my head. If it gets knocked out of whack, it's really awkward because sometimes there's no way to smoothly fix it. That's especially tough during the Phantom's first scene when he sings "The Music of the Night" to Christine. He's prepared for years for this seduction, he's got candles, he's got a gondola, it's all set, all eyes are on him. To go, "Oops, my mask is slipping!" right then doesn't look good.

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