“Listen” is the request that comes into his mind when he appears on the stage to sing his first song for “The Phantom of the Opera” as the Phantom.
“The number is a song for Christine, so I’m asking her to listen,” he explained.
But this request to others to get ready and "listen" also shows the 38-year-old actor's confidence, which is well-founded.
Choi joined “The Phantom of the Opera” in Seoul, which began on July 14 after the musical wrapped up a four-month run in Korea's second-largest city, Busan, on June 18. Choi portrays the Phantom, one of the most challenging roles, which is shared by celebrated actor Cho Seung-woo, baritone-turned-musical actor Jeon Dong-suk and classical baritone Kim Joo-taek.
He finally took the stage as the Phantom on Aug. 11.
The role of the Phantom provides Choi with the opportunity finally to utilize his classical vocal training as a baritone, which he specialized in at college. In addition, it marks a long-awaited performance for him in the role that he failed to secure during his first audition for it in 2009.
“I got numerous rejections during my mid and late twenties in various auditions -- Zorro, Notre-Dame de Paris, Monte Cristo, Mozart, just to name a few. Do I feel sorry? Not so much because I auditioned again and ended up performing those roles,” Choi said.
In addition to the Phantom, he will finally be part of "Les Miserables" later this year after two previous unsuccessful auditions since the late 2000s. For the upcoming "Les Miserables," he will be Jean Valjean, which will be another impressive addition to his performance resume, which also includes “Jesus Christ Superstar," "Kinky Boots," “Hairspray,” “Something Rotten,” "Matilda," “Chicago,” “Aida,” "Next to Normal" and "Notre-Dame de Paris.”
His journey to becoming a musical actor was guided by people around him. While he cherished being in the spotlight and singing as a child, he was uncertain about his future path. It was his mother who recommended he pursue a major in classical vocals, a suggestion he took. Then, during his time in the military, he crossed paths with a fellow musical actor who introduced him to the musical industry.
"(Being a musical actor) is a profession that provides me with diverse stimuli, such as acting or dancing, which I have grown fond of as I have been exposed to them. The more I enjoyed these things, the more I wanted to excel at them," he said, adding that he was lucky that his passion aligned with his talents.
Perhaps because he has gotten to do almost all the roles that he has dreamed of, Choi recently ventured into TV by appearing in “Lies Hidden in My Garden” in 2023 and “Green Mothers' Club” in 2022.
“I can pursue my acting career as long as my strength allows. It's a fortunate job that I can do for a long time, and I thought about what I should in order to enjoy and love it without succumbing to monotony. So I decided to expand my scope,” he said.
When asked what he wants to say to the audience, he said “Come, see and listen,” with a laugh.