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"Theatre is like a big family. The friendships and connections you make help you get your next job, and the one after that, and the one after that."

- George Lee Andrews, Record Holder, "Longest-running actor in the same Broadway show" - Guinness Book of World Records

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George Lee Andrews was Guest Speaker at the AEA Fall Eastern Region New Member Reception held Columbus Day - October 11th, 2010 in New York City. Over fifty New Members attended the afternoon event hosted by Mark Aldrich, Equity Councillor and Chair of the Eastern Region Membership Education Committee.

Mr. Andrews' Broadway credits include: Sondheim: A Musical Tribute, ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (Original Company), MERLIN, and since1988, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Off-Broadway credits include THE FANTASTICKS, JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS and STARTING HERE, STARTING NOW.

He spoke about the early years of his career, which began at age nineteen at the Fred Miller Theatre in Milwaukee. He spent the next ten years or so working in regional houses, dinner theatre and stock before moving to New York.

His big break came when the creative team for the original Broadway company of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, having had great difficulty casting the role of "Frid", called to see if Mr. Andrews was available to audition - that afternoon. Fortuitously, he had just returned to the city from a regional job. He went to the audition and won the part, which in turn led to being cast as "Frederick" in the National Tour. This strengthened his connection to Hal Prince and paved the way for his two-decade run in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

Twenty-two years with the same show presents many challenges, both physical and mental. There are times when he has struggled, but Mr. Andrews has learned to work through the problems rather than allowing them to define his experience: "You just ride the wave until you can really sail again." One member asked the inevitable question on everyone's mind: "Do you still find it fulfilling as an actor after all this time?"

From L to R: Jillian Koehnken, Jamila Sabares-Klemm, Johnny Stellard, Delius Doherty, Gilbert L. Bailey II,

"PHANTOM is an ultimately satisfying piece of theatre," he responded. "That's why it has endured and why I have been able to do it for so long." Mr. Andrews then paused and chuckled as he reflected on his first few years with the company. When he was initially cast in PHANTOM, he gave himself a time limit for how long he would stay-no more than three years. As the deadline approached, he landed a new role in the show and he gave himself an extension of another couple of years. Eventually, after a few more extensions, he thought, "Where am I going? What will be better than this? I realized I was fulfilled."

Listening to Mr. Andrews speak, however, it became quite clear that much of his motivation throughout his long stint at PHANTOM has been his family. In fact, Mr. Andrews will tell you without hesitation that having and caring for a family has been a primary focus throughout his entire career-whether specifically seeking out opportunities to work with his wife, taking their kids with them on regional jobs, or drawing on that extra bit of motivation that having three children and two grandchildren provides during the occasional rough day at the Majestic Theatre.

Mr. Andrews took special care to acknowledge the role of the understudy. As an understudy himself for much of his time at PHANTOM, he is passionate about the importance of understudies and the opportunity it provides actors to learn and eventually showcase their craft. "You see that ensemble up there; they all can play the leads." Understudying is about "getting the chance to show your stuff."

"You never know when something you do is going to pay off down the line," he said. "One bit of luck led to a show, which led to another, and that eventually I could stay in New York and raise a family…a huge gift; and PHANTOM allows me to enjoy that family."

NYC New Member Receptions are held three times a year. The event provides an opportunity for New AEA Members to put faces to names within a fun, informational gathering. During the Reception, there was a warm celebratory toast welcoming them to Equity membership and raffles featuring Equity, Actors Federal Credit Union and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids giveaways. Staff representatives talked with New Members about Agents, Auditions, Contracts, and Professional Integrity.

Respectfully submitted,
Scott Evans, 3rd Vice Chair, Membership Education Committee

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