‘Phantom of the Opera’ actor Devin Dalton recalls
Every time the lights went down and the curtain went up on “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Pantages Theater, audience members were almost certain to enjoy a performance by original company member Devin Dalton. But what role the handsome and versatile actor with a dry sense of humor would play, no one could guess.
A swing performer – who takes the stage if another actor isn’t able to – for Toronto’s longest-running musical, Dalton could be found at the theater in the Green Room or onstage at any show, says her sister, Susan Dalton. “The company was doing eight shows a week. Some weeks he was on stage for all eight shows.
Born in Kitchener to Benjamin James Dalton, a firefighter and horticultural instructor, and Dorothy Jean Dalton (née Sinnicks), Devin Andrew Dalton loved the theater, took ballet and tap lessons, and enjoyed building and sewing things. After learning to use the family’s turntable at the age of two, he almost always had music playing.
“I can’t remember how many times we could hear Devin singing in the shower — from my front yard, about 50 to 100 feet away,” says Karl Schaefer, a lifelong friend who grew up on the other side. from the street. “Naturally, we teased him about it, but that only increased the frequency. Performers!” Dalton introduced Schaefer to opera music (“at an inhuman volume”), and the two would explode Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky.
Dalton attended Northdale Elementary School, MacGregor Senior Public School, and Waterloo Collegiate Institute. It was at WCI and the Waterloo Regional Gilbert and Sullivan Society that the tall, thin teenager had roles in ‘Hello, Dolly’, ‘The Mikado’ and ‘Camelot’. He remained involved in musical theater, playing Jean-Baptiste in a production of “Godspell,” even though he earned a degree in biology from the University of Western Ontario. Although he intended to pursue dental studies or go to medical school, his passion for the arts won out, and in 1988 Dalton graduated with a degree in vocal music from the Wilfrid Laurier University.
In 1989, before the Toronto production of “The Phantom of the Opera” went into rehearsals, Dalton auditioned for the open call at Roy Thomson Hall. Musical director Jeffrey Huard, casting director Vincent Liff, director Hal Prince, choreographer Dame Gillian Lynne and producer Garth Drabinsky cast Dalton as the swing.
“I was immediately struck by Devin’s beautiful voice and knew he would make a wonderful addition to the company,” says Huard. “The swings have the hardest job in the show. Devin had to attend every rehearsal and every performance. A last minute illness or injury could mean very short notice for Devin to continue – sometimes even in the middle of the show.
As a stunt double for 11 roles, Dalton enjoyed variety, Susan says. “(He would watch) shows to perfect his portrayal of each role and try to improve as he goes along.”
Detail-oriented and quietly observant, Dalton was well-liked by everyone on the show — all important qualities for a swing, Huard says. When KISS frontman Paul Stanley joined the cast as Phantom, Dalton wrote him a welcome note saying how brave he thought the rock star was. has been for going so far from his wheelhouse, Dalton’s cousin Kathy Sinnicks Morningstar told.
Dalton, who had moved to Toronto to work on the show, was at the Pantages throughout his tour, except for time spent in Hawaii with the tour company.
After the curtain finally fell on “The Phantom of the Opera” on October 31, 1999, Dalton continued to work as an actor – with extras in numerous films and commercials – for the next two years. Wanting job security, he graduated from the University of Toronto teachers college and, in the second act of his career, taught at the Second Street and Market Lane schools of the Toronto District School Board.
“Devin was one of those teachers where every family wanted their child in their classroom,” says Cheryl Howe, a retired principal who worked with Dalton at Second Street Middle School. She described “an atmosphere of complete and total acceptance in her class. The students knew they had a teacher who cared about them and would do whatever he could to ensure their success.
Called “a loving soul” by his “Phantom” teammate and friend Robert Meilleur, Dalton was equally compassionate and kind in his personal life. The door to his Wellesley Street flat was always open for friends in need of accommodation, says friend Lee Easton.
But there was a sad side to the man who loved to drive, tinker, save, and never showed up to someone’s house without a thoughtful gift. Having struggled since childhood, Dalton was diagnosed with depression as an adult and sought counseling for years, resolving most issues before his death. Following a diagnosis of terminal cancer in 2021, the longtime horseback riding enthusiast went on a horseback ride on the Continental Divide in the Canadian Rockies.
Always thinking of others, Dalton, even when ill, tried to ensure that the people he loved would be cared for after his death. “If you needed someone to show up, Devin was there — late at night in the ER, moving around in the rain, (to be with) someone in the hospital who was about to die,” Easton explains. “He was going out of his way to meet friends at the airport or see them off.” He was always ready, says Susan, to be “a listener and a confidant” and of course – for over a decade – to take the stage to bring his “Phantom” characters to life. This he did with dedication, enthusiasm and energy.
For Dalton, says Huard, “every performance was an opening night”.
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