Andrew Lloyd Webber has been working on a sequel to his iconic show, "The Phantom of the Opera," for more than 20 years. But the process has not been without its challenges.
Early work on the production, which imagined the Phantom in a Manhattan penthouse, fell apart in the 1990s. After seeing a documentary about Coney Island, Webber decided to move the Phantom there, picking up the project again in 2006. In 2007, production was delayed further when Lloyd Webber's kitten Otto climbed onto his digital piano and deleted the score.
The show finally opened in London in March 2010, and closed just 18 months later -- a disappointing run, considering the long-term success of "The Phantom of the Opera," Broadway's longest-running show. "Phantom" has been performed more than 9,900 times since its opening. With lush, romantic music and a plot to match, the story of the mysterious musical genius living underneath the Paris Opera House and his love for a young soprano has captivated audiences since 1986.
So what happens when you take the Phantom out of Paris? Set in 1907, ten years after the end of the original, "Love Never Dies" brings Christine, Raoul, and their young son Gustave to New York. Once there, they're brought into Phantasma, the Phantom's new theater featuring carnival freaks and variety shows starring Meg Giry (Christine's friend from the old days).
Fans protective of the original mythology might disapprove: Raoul, once an aristocratic hero, has devolved into a dissolute gambler. But when Christine and the Phantom meet again, it becomes clear that theirs is the love story we are meant to root for. It's even revealed that the two had a passionate night before the Phantom fled Paris -- resulting in a son, Gustave. Song, dance, and chaos ensue.
Though the show was expected to open on Broadway this spring, these plans were put on hold following unfavorable fan reception. Instead, a production filmed in Melbourne in 2011 will be released to the big screens in America for two nights on Februrary 28th and March 7th. The Melbourne production features stage pyrotechnics even more baroque than the original, with one key scene set amidst the dancing bodies of Coney Island's freaks.
We sat down with Lloyd Webber to discuss the process behind "Love Never Dies," and his hopes for the show.
Why is "Love Never Dies" being released on film before it comes to stages in the U.S.?
What I think is very exciting is that the skill and the technology now exists to the degree you can film a stage show in that way. You can add a completely new dimension to all musical theater with the ability to get up so close to the performers.
What compelled you to write a sequel to the original?
I'm obviously very fond of the principal characters, of Christine and the Phantom. Without giving anything away, in a sense, I was wanting to develop the relationship and close it. It closes a chapter in my musical life, which I wanted to complete.
Why Coney Island?
If the Phantom had gone anywhere he would have gone somewhere he would not have been noticed. Coney Island was extremely well known for its freaks. You read things about it you can't dream of seeing today that would be his home, because he would not be noticed. A man in a mask would not be conspicuous.
"Love Never Dies" combines motifs from the original show, which has a European setting, with new music that draws on American song traditions, like vaudeville. How did you come up with this music?
I wrote what I thought was right from the story. That's the inspiration for any show -- the story inspires you. I'm very story driven. You could have a really great song in the wrong show in the wrong place.
Raoul is almost a villain in "Love Never Dies." Why did the love story become exclusively the Phantom and Christine's?
Raoul could never offer her the music, everything that makes a performer tick. That was aways going to be a problem. The development of the relationship between Phantom and Christine is what interests me, the moment where they actually see each other again for the first time in ten years.
And the Phantom and Christine spent a night together once?
It happens after the end of the old Phantom, it's always clear. "The Phantom of the Opera" is about love, it's as simple as that. It's a piece of high romance, and that's what I originally wanted to write 25 years ago and that's what the piece is --love never dies -- it's about precisely that. The one thing you do of course know is that in her heart of hearts she's overjoyed to see him again. I think we've all had that experience.
WATCH: Sierra Boggess and Andrew Lloyd Webber perform title song, "Love Never Dies":