'The Phantom of the Opera' Actor Found Dead in Central Park, Authorities Reveal Heartbreaking Cause

'The Phantom of the Opera' Actor Found Dead in Central Park, Authorities Reveal Heartbreaking Cause
Aerial view of Manhattan looking south over Central Park, New York, July 1, 2007. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)
Tiffany Meier

A Broadway actor who appeared in "The Phantom of the Opera" and "War Horse" was found dead in Central Park of an apparent suicide, according to reports.

Harlan Bengel, 45, was found hanging from an overpass in Manhattan's Upper West Side, according to the New York Post. A passerby discovered the body at 5:50 a.m. at the Winterdale Arch near Central Park West on Friday, May 3, and called 911.

"He hung himself. Right off the railing at the edge of the arch," a parks worker saw the man's body and told the New York Post.

"I saw a long orange cord. He had tied a plastic bag around his head, too," he added.

 File image of an arch in Central Park in New York. (Marlon Nartea/Unsplash)
File image of an arch in Central Park in New York. (Marlon Nartea/Unsplash)

According to the New York Post, Bengel had a history of mental illness. He also reportedly left a suicide note in his pocket, sources told the New York Post.

On stage, he appeared in the Broadway productions of "The Phantom of the Opera" starting in 2011 and "War Horse" in 2012, according to Playbill.com.
Aside from his work in "The Phantom of the Opera" and "War Horse," Bengel was also an accomplished ballet dancer, having performed with the San Francisco Ballet, Metropolitan Opera Ballet, and Tulsa Ballet, according to Broadway World.
He also appeared with famed tenor Placido Domingo in a televised gala from the Washington National Opera, according to the San Antonio Metro Ballet.

He did some film work, appearing on screen as an extra in the Will Smith film "Ali." His first on-screen role was in a short film, "Ana Kata."

He appeared in the National Touring company of "My Fair Lady," according to Broadway World.

In 2017, he wrote on Twitter, "If we want to know what love is, we must take ourselves out of the equation and see what remains."

Fellow "The Phantom of the Opera" actor Satomi Hofmann wrote on Twitter, "Thinking of Harlan Bengel and at a loss for words though my mind is teeming. We weren’t close but we were certainly friendly whenever we were performing together. May you find the peace you felt you couldn’t find in life."

Fellow "My Fair Lady" Broadway actor Jesse Swimm, who has appeared in"School of Rock" and "Mary Poppins," expressed sorrow about losing his friend in a heartfelt message on Instagram.

"The last time I saw my friend Harlan was at some nondescript audition at some nondescript audition room for some nondescript show that neither of us ended up getting," he wrote on Instagram.

"We talked, we laughed, we went on about the same [expletive] we always did," he continued. "We reminisced about our 'My Fair Lady' tour and the good times we had. And when we parted we said we needed to grab a drink and catch up."

"He was funny, he was witty, he was strong, he was talented, he was someone I admired, but above all he was my friend ...," he added. "I wish I knew the pain he was going through.

"I wish I had been an ear for him to talk with. I wish I could have told him that he isn't alone and that we are all scared and hurt and taking it day by day to make it in this world," he said. "Sadly he is not the first friend I have lost this way and it scares me to think that it will happen again."

He then continued with a message for his followers.

"I implore you ... take care of each other," he said. "Take the time to reach out and let your friends know that you are there for them. Even if it's something as simple as a text, an email, or better yet a phone call, anything.

"This world can be so toxic and we only have each other to get through it all, our friends our family those are the things that matter. I will always think fondly of you my friend and remember the good times we had and I will be there for others that are in pain because I wasn't there for you ... RIP my friend."

He concluded with, "The next audition I know you will be dancing by my side giving me strength and the next and the next ... https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org."

If you or someone you know is showing signs that they might be suicidal, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 800-273-TALK. You can also text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
Tiffany Meier is a New York-based reporter and host of NTD's "China in Focus."
Related Topics