Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Hugh's love of animals interested him in a career in veterniary 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 ).
He began performing at the age of 13. His pre-Broadway and regional roles include Mary Sunshine in Chicago and the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar. He made his Broadway debut as Marius in Les Misérables, a role he originated in the first U.S. national touring company.
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. Hugh is one of Broadway's leading tenors.
Hugh created the roles of Buddy in Side Show and Julian in Jule Styne's last musical, The Red Shoes. He made his West End debut in the original London company of Harold Prince's Show Boat as Ravenal, the role he played on Broadway and in Toronto.
At Avery Fisher Hall, he performed with the Radio City Rockettes in Jerry Herman's Mack and Mabel and also in The Stephen Sondheim Gala, the culmination of the Kennedy Center's "Summer of Sondheim," where Hugh played Anthony Hope in Sweeney Todd.
In Los Angeles, Hugh played Franklin Shepard in Merrily We Roll Along and received an Ovation Award nomination for his performance as Kenneth in Call Me Madam, both for Reprise! As a concert artist, Hugh has performed with symphony orchestras across the U.S. and abroad and can be heard on numerous recordings. He is one of the few actors to play both the roles of Raoul (1991) and the Phantom (1999) in the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera, but after wearing the mask for only a few months, he left to play the title role in the American premiere of Sir Cameron Mackintosh's Martin Guerre.
Hugh returned to play the title role at the Majestic Theatre in The Phantom of the Opera until October 1, 2005. He recently created the title role in the Elton John musical, Lestat and played the coveted role of Bobby in Stephen Sondheim's Company at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre.
Hugh's only film appearance was in the 1997 romantic comedy, "Broadway Damage". Most recently, he performed in a number of concerts and benefits, including Bucks County Cabaret, at Joe's Pub, An Evening With Hugh Panaro at the University of Findlay in Ohio, The Leading Men II at the venerable Birdland Jazz Club, and Broadway For Medicine at City Center.
Following his performance in the March 26, 2007 Broadway Musicals of 1938 concert, Hugh invited fans to suggest songs for this first solo album. In the summer of 2007, Hugh was one of four Broadway performers joining Barbra Streisand on her first European concert tour. He is now starring as Jean Valjean in the new, non-replica production of Les Miserables at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre.