Few operatic stories have the following that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” has amassed since it first opened in London in 1986, with over 12,000 performances on Broadway and “phans,” as fanatics of the production call themselves, that span generations. Now, the sequel to the story, “Love Never Dies,” revisits the characters and answers the question of what happened to the Phantom after he disappeared from that chair.
The national tour of “Love Never Dies” makes its way to Austin Nov. 27 through Dec. 2 at Bass Concert Hall as part of the Lexus Broadway in Austin series.
The musical focuses on Christine Daae, Raoul, Madame Giry and the Phantom 10 years after the Phantom’s disappearance from the Paris Opera House. He now lives among the carnival rides at Coney Island and lures Christine, Raoul and their son there after Christine is invited to perform in Manhattan.
While the story is a sequel, Webber has said that he views it as a stand-alone piece and that one doesn’t need to see “Phantom” to understand “Love Never Dies.” Music supervisor Kristen Blodgette agrees.
“The original Phantom is, of course, iconic,” Blodgette says. “This is a sequel, but they work independently. One doesn’t have to have seen the first ‘Phantom’ in order to like this (show), which is really interesting. They really are able to stand alone.”
For those hoping for a score just as colorful as the original, Blodgette says you're in luck. She has been musically involved with “Phantom” since it first opened on Broadway in 1988 and worked on casting and advocating for Webber’s music for the sequel’s tour.
“There are moments where the leitmotifs are reminiscent of those in ‘Phantom,’” Blodgette says. “At the same time ... it is different from the original.”
With its ability to stand alone and an accessible score for all kinds of music lovers, “Love Never Dies” is a show anyone can enjoy, Blodgette says. But being accessible doesn’t mean that the music is easy to perform. During the months of casting, Blodgette was looking for performers who could rise to the challenge of the score.
“The vocal ranges that Andrew has written for Christine and the Phantom, it requires real vocal technique,” Blodgette says. “They have to sing well as well as be good actors.”
As far as the story goes, fans of the original get to follow the trajectory of the same characters, but from a new perspective.
“If you’re a ‘Phantom’ fanatic, which some people are, it’s sort of a journey they want to have completed,” Blodgette says. “In the original ‘Phantom,’ we’re looking at it through the eyes of Christine and Raoul and the people in the Paris Opera House, whereas in this (show) we are looking at it more through the Phantom’s perspective.”
Over the years, Blodgette has seen “Phantom of the Opera” and “Love Never Dies” more times than she can count. To her, it hasn’t gotten old, especially the music.
“There’s so much color in it, it moves quickly. ... It’s rather unpredictable,” Blodgette says. “I don’t think anyone goes there expecting the story to unfold as it does. I really think it’s a beautiful production.”