Former Chicago actor Ben Jacoby, now appearing in the newly re-imagined national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's blockbuster musical "The Phantom of the Opera," is quick to clarify the pronunciation of his last name.
"For the record, it's 'Jack-uh-bee,'" said Jacoby in a phone call from Minneapolis, where the "Phantom" tour plays before stopping in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre from Tuesday, Jan. 9, through Sunday, March 2.
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"The Phantom of the Opera"Location: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago, (800) 775-2000, broadwayinchicago.com
Showtimes: Tuesday, Jan. 9, through Sunday, March 2: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (also Sunday, Jan. 12 and 19); 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (no matinee Jan. 15); 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Jacoby is a surname that is instantly recognizable to die-hard Broadway musical theater fans. That's because it also belongs to Ben's father, Mark, whose credits include original Broadway casts of "Ragtime" and "Elf," celebrated revivals of "Show Boat" and "Sweeney Todd" and prominent replacement gigs like the title role in "The Phantom of the Opera" -- currently the longest-running show in Broadway history.
In fact, Mark Jacoby starred in the title role the first time "The Phantom of the Opera" played Chicago in 1990. Harold Prince's original production played the Auditorium Theatre, and the star assumed the lead the following year in New York.
Ben Jacoby is playing another key role in the musical, that of Raoul, the Phantom's romantic rival for the love of the orphaned soprano Christine Daae. He earned the role on his own, playing down his father's connection to the show.
"It wasn't until my third round of auditions that it finally came up and somebody asked if my dad was Mark," Jacoby said. "The business is small enough, so there isn't much that I can do to prevent people from figuring out who's my dad."
Yet one way to create some distance from his East Coast-based father was Jacoby's decision to start his acting career in Chicago after getting a graduate degree in theater from the University of California, Irvine.
"I had made a connection with an agent there, and I thought that the kind of work done in Chicago attracted me," said Jacoby, now 26, adding that he didn't want to be pigeonholed. "I cannot only do musicals, but straight plays and some TV or commercials."
Still, it was mainly musical theater roles that Jacoby ended up doing before he was cast in the new "Phantom" tour -- particularly in three 2013 productions at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Jacoby was prominently featured in the world premiere revue "Now & Forever: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber," in "South Pacific" as Lt. Cable and in "9 to 5: The Musical" as Joe, the younger man romantically pursuing Violet.
Now that Jacoby is booked through all of 2014 and possibly beyond with "Phantom," he's given up his Chicago apartment and says he's essentially "homeless" at the moment. Luckily, he says his show biz parents understand.