Katie Travis was a 4-year-old girl living on a Michigan farm. Her life changed when her parents took her and her 7-year-old brother to Toronto to see one of the early tours of "The Phantom of the Opera."
"It was the first show I had ever seen," she said. "It was incredible, it was magical, it was amazing. My brother and I came home singing all the songs."
That show helped shape the rest of her life. She went on to study opera, though she said her heart was always in musical theater.
Then, just two weeks ago, she took over the role she had dreamed of performing ever since she was 4. She's Christine, the female lead in the new national tour of "Phantom."
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The tour comes to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa for a three-week run that starts Wednesday.
Travis took over the role from Julia Udine, who has moved on to the New York production, which has been running on Broadway since 1988.
The show that audiences in Tampa will see has been re-tooled, with new orchestrations and new sets.
All the original costumes remain. So does the falling chandelier, although Travis said that has been updated to make it more spectacular. Andrew Lloyd Webber's music and Charles Hart's lyrics haven't been altered.
But a new set design gives the show a new, colorful look that helps clarify the mood and the narrative, she said.
Even the elegantly candle-lit sewer that was the show's most famous set has been redone.
"I don't want to give too much away," she said. "There's long staircase, and there's still a boat."
One criticism of "Phantom" has always been that it was more spectacle than drama, that it lacked an element of soul.
The new staging is designed to interject more humanity into the familiar show, Travis said.
"That's exactly what we're trying to do," she said. "It's less about the iconic spectacle of this how, and more about telling the story of people who have to make choices. I think it's a perfect blend of the old and the new."
Chris Mann, who plays the Phantom, and Storm Lineberger, who plays Raoul, all joined the show at the same time, just a couple of weeks ago in Fort Lauderdale.
"Every night we're trying to make this show better," she said. "Were always looking for what we can do to improve the show, to make it more succinct. It's something we're all very passionate about."
Details: Dec. 17-Jan. 4, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. Show times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday; 2 p.m. Dec. 18; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22; no performance Dec. 25. Tickets: $45-$128.50 plus service charge and up. Information: 813-229-7827, strazcenter.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.