The producers of the Broadway musical "The Phantom of the Opera" have responded to social-media criticism that its new star, James Barbour, had been convicted of a sexual offense committed in 2001.
"James gave a tremendous audition and we are confident he will be a thrilling Phantom," producers Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Group posted on the long-running musical's Facebook page. "James fully accepted responsibility for what happened 14 years ago. Following his sentence in 2008, James . . . has appeared in countless productions in New York and around the country, receiving great acclaim, and maintaining a spotless reputation."
On Jan. 3, 2008, Barbour, a graduate of Hofstra University, pleaded guilty to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, following an encounter backstage, and another in his apartment a month later, with a 15-year-old girl. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years' probation, during which time he had to reveal the conviction to anyone he worked for in film, TV or theater. He resumed a successful stage and concert career, starring as Sydney Carton in the Broadway musical "A Tale of Two Cities" later that year.
The statement, which also thanked the show's fans, added that, "While we know some will disagree, we believe James has completely honored the second chance he was given beginning 7 years ago and we are happy to have him join the production next month." The actor is set to start his role on Feb. 9, succeeding Norm Lewis, Broadway's first black Phantom.
Barbour, 48, was announced as the show's 15th Phantom on Monday. He and his actress and dancer wife, Dana Stackpole, 48, have a daughter, Hudson, 6.
"The Phantom of the Opera," the longest-running show in Broadway history, opened on Jan. 26, 1988.