Besides his incredible talent, Hugh is just the sweetest, warmest, kindest and most generous man you’ll ever want to be onstage with.
~ Carolee Carmello. Lestat
Hugh Panaro has been described as “the leader of Broadway’s dwindling supply of great leading men.” Critically lauded and adored by fans, he demonstrates versatility, charisma, tremendous vocal talent, and, in the words of one former costar, movie star good looks.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 19, 1964, Hugh’s love of animals interested him in a career in veterinary medicine. However, after seeing his first Broadway show (the original production of Annie), Hugh fell in love with theatre. His first role, Friedrich in a regional production of The Sound of Music, came when he was twelve. Hugh, who was a church organist at Saint Helena’s Roman Catholic Church during high school and accompanied his mother on the organ or piano at weddings, studied music at Temple University (BA in voice, class of ’85 )
Moving to New York City immediately after graduation, Hugh quickly found a role in I Have Found Home. He played a German immigrant in the show which took place on a ferry to the Statue of Liberty. He later obtained his Equity card with the role of Mary Sunshine in regional production of Chicago.
In 1988, Hugh originated the role of Marius Pontmercy in the first national touring production of Les Miserables, moving up to the Broadway company several months later. He was then cast by Hal Prince as Raoul de Chagny, the romantic young hero in Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical The Phantom of the Opera. His next role was as Julian Craster in Jules Styne’s final musical, the ill-fated The Red Shoes in 1993.
Subsequent roles included Gaylord Ravenal in Show Boat (Broadway, Toronto, and London), Buddy Foster in the original production of Side Show, and David in the independent film, Broadway Damage.
Following Martin Guerre, Hugh drew praise for performances in Gentleman Prefer Blondes and Merrily We Roll Along in Los Angeles and as Anthony Hope in the Kennedy Center’s 2002 production of Sweeney Todd.
After an off-Broadway run in LaChiusa’s Little Fish, Hugh returned to play the Phantom in 2003. One of the most popular actors to fill the role, he remained with the show until October 2005, leaving to play the seductive, conflicted vampire Lestat in the Elton John musical based on Anne Rice’s successful novels.
In autumn 2006, Hugh was invited to play Bobby in the 5th Avenue Theater (Seattle) production of Sondheim’s pivotal musical, Company. His performance was praised as “exquisitely accomplished.” Following Company, Hugh has appeared in a number of concerts, including benefit shows at Joe’s Pub, Birdland Jazz Club, and City Center.
In addition to his numerous stage credits, Hugh has also been featured on a number of recordings and added his voice to the chorus of the Prince of Egypt film soundtrack. He is currently at work on his debut solo album.
Last year, he starred as Jean Valjean in the Walnut Street Theatre’s outstanding production of Les Miserables, a role which earned him praise from audiences and reviewers alike, as well as the Barrymore award. This spring, he played the title role in the 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of Sunday In The Park With George.
His genuine charm and humility, matched with a gorgeous smile, have made him a true fan favorite at many stage doors. While Hugh embraced a career in the theatre over one as a veterinarian, he remains a self-described animal freak with a particular fondness for dogs, especially his black Labradooble, Soot.