An energized, enthusiastic Andrew Lloyd Webber spoke Thursday about the importance of music in education, about how deeply he cares about the characters in his “Phantom of the Opera,” and of course about “Love Never Dies,” which had its North American premier Tuesday night at the Fisher Theatre.
Oh, and the composer of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita,” Cats” and so many other works wanted to know how to get to Motown.
“Love Never Dies” is the sequel to his 1986 blockbuster “Phantom of the Opera,” the longest-running show in Broadway history, according to Guinness Book of World Records.
“’Phantom’ has been such a big part of my life,” the composer told The Detroit News. “I thought, ‘I’d love to take the story further, and close it.’ And for me that’s as far as that story can ever go.”
Without giving away the ending, let it be said that yes, the ending is very final.
“Love Never Dies” had a long and winding road to get to this Detroit premiere (it runs at until Oct. 29) after premiering on London’s West End in 2010.
It takes up the story of the Phantom — a disfigured, masked musical genius who haunted the Paris Opera House, nursing an obsession with the singer Christine Daae — 10 years after he fled for America. There he lives under a seedy Coney Island amusement park. The plot involves his attempt to lure the now-married Christine across the ocean to force her to choose once and for all between him and Raoul, her husband.
“With the London production, it was one of those unfortunate things where, despite the very talented people who were working on it, it didn’t coalesce,” Lloyd Webber explained. “I unfortunately got cancer during the middle of it, so I can’t say I was at my best, rehearsing when I could, in a track suit. It wasn’t great.”
“Luckily there was another production in Australia that was mooted, where it was a completely different design, a completely different approach, a completely different director (Simon Phillips), and that’s what we’re seeing now. It came together in Australia with a production design that absolutely fits the material.”
Lloyd-Webber recalled something the great Broadway producer Hal Prince told him back in the early 1970s: “He said that you can’t listen to a musical if you can’t look at it.”
Happily, this American launch of the production has lived up to his hopes.
“All I can say is, based on what I’ve seen, like last night, I had one of those nights that you rarely get as a composer, that you say, ‘gosh, it’s all there,’ ” said Lloyd-Webber, 69.
“You’d be pleased if this was being presented on (London’s) West End,” he added. “You have two great Phantoms, and two great Christines in this company. The Christines give very different performances, but they are both fabulous. I can’t wait to see it with another combination of this cast.”
“Love Never Dies” is in many ways darker and more adult than “Phantom.”
“Obviously, I’m 20 years older than I was when I wrote the original ‘Phantom,’ and I think the music has moved on,” Lloyd-Webber mused. “But I think anybody who knows me will understand what I mean, in wanting to close the book on this one. In doing so, I think I’ve put more of myself in it, because those characters have been such a part of my life, whether I like it or not. I really, really, really feel for them.”
Susan Whitall is an author and longtime contributor to The Detroit News.
‘Love Never Dies’
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater, book by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton, additional lyrics by Charles Hart
Through Oct. 29
The Fisher Theatre
3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit
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