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Interview:
Andrew Lloyd Webber says "Love Never Dies" is "an absolute joy"
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Andrew Lloyd Webber was happy, and vindicated, as he sat in the lobby of Detroit’s Fisher Theatre on Thursday morning, Oct. 19.

Fresh off a curtain call with the touring cast of “Love Never Dies” the previous night, the famed stage composer of so many hits (“Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita,” “Cats,” “The Phantom Of The Opera” and more) was pleased to see that his sequel to “The Phantom” was very much alive and viable -- even after being panned on London’s West End when it opened seven years ago.

“It means a huge amount to me to have it in the state that it is,” Webber said. “I think now it could never be any better. All of the work, from my point of view, that I can do has been done with it.

“So for me last night was an absolute joy. It’s one of those nights as a composer that you live for. Whatever anybody makes of the piece, it was as good as I could ever expect to hear it.”

So it was with a combination of pride and relief that Webber, 69, spoke about the bumpy journey of “Love Never Dies” and his hope for the musical’s future...

• Webber said “Love Never Dies’” flame-out in London, and the subsequent cancellation of a planned Broadway production, “was not only due to the fact that I wasn’t very well at the time, but that...although there were great people working on it, the actual production design didn’t marry it. The extraordinary thing about this (current) production is it marries the music in an entirely different way, but exactly as Maria Bjornson design so fantastically did with the original ‘Phantom.’” The show was redeemed with a retooled production for Australia in 2011 and has subsequently been seen in Copenhagen, Tokyo and Hamburg before coming to North America earlier this month in Baltimore.

• The composer was particularly effusive about the North American cast, particularly Meghan Picerno -- recommended by producer Hal Prince -- as Christine Daae, as well as the local musicians who are part of the pit orchestra at the Fisher. “The orchestra here is extraordinary,” Webber gushed. “The local players, my goodness...This is the best string playing I’ve ever had in any of my shows.”

• So why a sequel to “The Phantom?” “I suppose the original ‘Phantom’ was such an enormous part of my life,” Webber explained, “in one sense I wanted to kind of close the story and close that chapter for myself as a composer. But so many people said to me afterwards, ‘What happened to them?’ The ending is mine, and I realized in a sense that I left it as unfinished business.”

• He does not expect a sequel to “Love Never Dies,” however. “I think with this, the chapter’s concluded,” Webber says.

Because the story is set in Coney Island during 1907, about a decade after the events in “The Phantom,” Webber feels that “Love Never Dies” will resonate even more with North American audiences than it has elsewhere. “I think it’s always that case that if you do it in the place where it’s actually set, people understand more. I’d have loved to have seen Coney Island in its heyday; The only time I went there, all that was left was a freak show. So I walked through the freaks and suddenly one of them uncontorted itself and said, ‘Andrew!’ I said, ‘My God’ and looked at this freak, and she said, ‘I was once in the touring production of ‘Cats!’”

• There are no firm plans to bring the revised “Love Never Dies” to Broadway yet, but that’s one of Webber’s goals. “Well of course, I love it,” he acknowledges. “All I can say is after a long journey it’s got here in the form that I’m happy with it. I have to hand it to Randy (Buck, the show’s producer for Troika Entertainment); They’ve done a fantastic production of it. It’s as much as any composer can hope for.”



“Love Never Dies” runs through Oct. 29 at t Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. Tickets are $39-$104. Call 313-872-1000 or visit broadwayindetroit.com.

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