In all my interviews over the years, I’ve become quite accustomed to diva-like attitudes amongst the stars. One would expect the same from the Opera’s new phantom.Then again, there’s a first time for everything.
After all, major stars of stage and screen are used to a certain kind of treatment. When meeting a journalist, they don’t want to be taken by surprise, be it by difficult questions or a demanding photo shoot. So they expect detailed preparation in advance. They require professional styling, make-up and hair that cost a small fortune to set up. Rather than an in-depth personal interview, they typically prefer a quick 10-minute chat to promote their newest project or plug their latest film.
So I’m not sure what to expect as I prepare for my interview with Swedish superstar and now Broadway sensation Peter Jöback – and as it turns out, neither does he.
He steps out of the elevator in one of the luxury rental buildings just off Broadway wearing a big smile. “We’re meeting now, right? I’m Peter.” Then, noticing my photographer, he adds, “Oops, you brought a photo crew. I thought we were just talking over a cup of coffee today…? I wasn’t ready for that. Maybe I should change?”
In the end, though, Jöback doesn’t end up changing or asking for make-up or styling – and the resulting photographs on the rooftop of an adjoining building are what you see here.
Sweden may not have had a bigger star or a bigger role to play on Broadway since Viveca Lindfors many years ago, but none of this is evident in Jöback’s personality. He’s as down to earth and un-diva-like as they come. Whether it’s his early start as a child actor or an extraordinary international career or a life now balanced with a strong family backing him, Jöback is a real person and a really nice guy.
The longest-running show in Broadway history, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” welcomed its new Swedish phantom on April 29. The character is familiar for Jöback, who starred in the London production in 2012 and was one of the international phantoms to perform alongside Sara Brightman at the 25th anniversary celebration at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2011.
While much of his career has been outside Sweden since 1997, Jöback’s work on stage, record, film and television has made him one of Scandinavia’s biggest stars. He’s sold over a million albums, was nominated for three Swedish Grammies, has won two Swedish Tony awards and last year’s arena tour “I Love Musicals” sold out wherever he went. A new version of the tour kicks off almost immediately after his present Broadway stint.
The son of singer Monica Lind, Jöback grew up in Stockholm and received his initial musical education at the Adolf Fredrik’s Music School. He found the stage early on, at the age of ten, and appeared in productions including “The Sound of Music,” “Grease” and “Fame.”
His breakthrough was the 1996 role of Robert in “Kristina,” a musical by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA fame, which brought him his first Golden Mask (a Swedish Tony) and the attention of legendary London-based producer Cameron Mackintosh. Mackintosh handpicked the then-25-year-old Jöback to star in “Miss Saigon” in London’s West End and later in the original musical version of “The Witches of Eastwick.”

Does he see differences between the audiences in England, the U.S. or Sweden?
“Not really,” he says. “First off, I have only played less than a handful of major musical roles in Sweden as an adult, most of my work has been abroad. But, when it comes to comparing audiences at my Scandinavian arena shows with Phantom audiences of England or America, I’d have to say they’re all equally enthusiastic. “
His first “I Love Musicals” show, at Globen arena in Stockholm, was nothing less than magical, he recalls, “with close to ten thousand people declaring, ‘Hi, my name is … and I love musicals.’ They were my fans and fans of musicals, but how can you beat that kind of response?”

What does his typical day look like?
“I wake up, have breakfast, Skype a little with family in Sweden. I sometimes have lunch with friends, go up to Central Park, go for a run, do some training. The theater is within walking distance so after warming up in my apartment I walk over for make-up. I do my job, love every moment of it, then afterwards wind down, go for a walk or meet friends over a cup of coffee. I spend a lot of time in Central Park running and enjoy the scenery and being in nature.
With 8 performances at The Majestic every week, including two on Wednesdays and Saturdays, it’s important to stay healthy, he notes: “It is a big job. To be able to do it perfectly, I need to be in physical shape and be prepared and careful with my voice.”
“New York is also the capital of brunches. Sundays, my day off, are perfect for long, leisurely brunches with friends. I lived in New York a couple of years ago and have a network of friends and a long list of favorite hang-outs for my time off.”

For an iconic role such as the Phantom, how does he incorporate his own interpretation?
“The way I see it the Phantom is no monster, he’s really an abused child,” Jöback says. “We all wear masks, and it’s about daring to take them off, maybe first and foremost to ourselves. To see who we are and to be comfortable, it’s important to like what we see as we look at ourselves. The end scene is just so amazing. It’s the climax of a truly beautiful love story where at that point in time, the Phantom realizes he can never offer her what she wants because he’s not comfortable with who he is.
“I can relate to the Phantom’s search for the light and the connection he finds in the girl. He is a vulnerable spirit, and I’d like that to shine through to the audience. He’s been abandoned by his mother, has lived in the dungeon under the Paris Opera for such a long time when he hears the girl pray above. He helps her, becomes her teacher but he cannot fully connect, he keeps his distance, possibly to avoid being hurt. I can relate to most of his feelings on some level. It took me a long time to accept myself, who I am and things that happened to me as a child.“

What does he do if he gets nervous just before the curtain comes up?
“I’m nervous or rather on edge every single time,” he says. “It’s part of the excitement. Once you don’t have that sense of heightened awareness that comes with nerves, I think you should quit.”
Still, this is a role he knows well: “I have played the Phantom many times, and I was here for the January festivities when Phantom became the first Broadway show to celebrate 25 years. I arrived for my time in the title role a couple of weeks prior to my first Broadway bow on April 29 and had about a week of rehearsals, met with the original director Hal Prince and off we went.”

Jöback has called Broadway “everything he ever dreamed of as a child.” At age 41, what is his dream now?
“At this point in my life, it’s really all about the projects and the people I get to work with,” he explains. “I have done musicals, pop, concerts and tours and it would be great to one day expand my repertoire and scope of work into film or regular plays. It’s all about growing, as a person and a performer—as a performer, especially at this level, you want to be perfect, so you constantly work with yourself as the measuring stick and against yourself.”
So far, producer Mackintosh, director Prince and the New York audience seem to love the Swedish Phantom. This summer he says he intends to visit some agents to see whether he has other future opportunities for entertaining audiences in the U.S.

Peter Jöback will be performing as the Phantom, replacing the acclaimed Hugh Panaro, until August 24. While visiting New York, don’t miss the opportunity to catch him at the Majestic Theater, ( – and perhaps see the Phantom in a new light.
“I want people to see the Phantom as a human being, just like you and me,” he says. “I would like more than a few of them to leave the theater thinking ‘Why did Christine pick Raoul? Why not the Phantom?’”

Written by Ulf Barslund Mårtensson
Portrait photography: Kristofer Dan-Bergman

Name: Peter Arne Jöback
Entertainer, singer, actor
Age: 41
Civil status: Married
Home: Stockholm
In New York to: Play the title role of “The Phantom of the Opera”
Greatest achievement: To stay humble in success and curious about life
Idea of perfect happiness: Spending time with friends and family.
Favorite occupation: To be in nature
Favorite New York moment: Working with Hal Prince
Reading on bedside table: The memoirs of Hal Prince. Fascinating!