The inaugural U.S. Tour of Love Never Dies: The Phantom Returns, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s thrilling 2010 non-sequel sequel to his humongous 1986 West End and 1988 Broadway mega-hit musical The Phantom of the Opera, will arrive at the Durham Performing Arts Center just in time for Halloween — and run for eight performances through Nov. 5th! (“I don’t regard this [show] as a sequel — it’s a stand-alone piece,” Lloyd Webber declared in an October 2009 BBC News interview.) Then, early next year, the sensational new North American Tour of The Phantom of the Opera will play DPAC on Feb. 28-March 4 and March 6-11. So, Triangle theatergoers will have a chance to view two pivotal chapters of The Man in the Half-Mask’s life and loves, albeit in reverse chronological order.
“People have asked, ‘Do we have to have seen Phantom first [to enjoy this show]?” says music supervisor Kristen Blodgette. “I don’t think they do…. The story is very, very sweet; and I like to think that the message — love is the final answer — is pertinent. [This show] should appeal to a wide range of musical tastes. I hope so.”
Love Never Dies had its world premiere, directed by Jack O’Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, on March 9, 2010 at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End. The initial London production, which is set in 1907 in Phantasma, a popular new amusement park in Brooklyn, NY’s Coney Island neighborhood, featured music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater, and a book by Lloyd Webber, Slater, Ben Elton, and Frederick Forsyth, loosely based on Forsyth’s 1999 novella The Phantom of Manhattan.
The West End production of Love Never Dies opened to mixed reviews, and was reworked to include new directorial touches and additional lyrics by Charles Hart. It still closed on August 27, 2011, after less than 18 months.
A subsequent Australian production, which opened on May 21, 2011 at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, under the direction of Simon Phillips, substantially revamped the musical, and provides the blueprint for the current national tour, produced by Gaithersburg, MD-based Troika Entertainment, by special arrangement with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, and directed by Simon Phillips and choreographed by Phillips’ fellow Australian Graeme Murphy AO, with the assistance from associate director Gavin Mitford and associate choreographer Simone Sault, This tour of Love Never Dies commenced on Sept. 22, 2017 at the Stanley Center for the Arts in Utica, NY, and is currently scheduled to conclude on Sept. 16, 2018 at the Belk Theater in the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, NC.
Love Never Dies has evolved, bit by bit, claims Kristen Blodgette, who recently served as musical director and conductor of the 2017 Broadway revival of Sunset Boulevard, starring Glenn Close as fading Silent Film star Norma Desmond. Blodgette says, “Love Never Dies opened in London first, and it was not the show that Andrew wanted it to be. It had a resurrection in Australia, which Andrew was happy with. There was a production in Japan, which I didn’t have anything to do with, and then I was involved with the Hamburg production. [The U.S. Tour] is nearly a replica production of the Australian production, with the same creative team.”
Love Never Dies at DPAC stars Garðar Thór Cortes as Erik, a.k.a. The Phantom of the Opera, the self-proclaimed “Opera Ghost” who once terrorized the hams and prima donnas at the Paris Opera House and 10 years later, on the other side of the Atlantic, is the behind-the-scenes impresario of Coney Island’s newest tourist attraction; Meghan Picerno as Christine Daaé, an aspiring opera singer and The Phantom’s one true love, who becomes his protégée and, ultimately, a star soprano; Sean Thompson as Christine’s childhood friend, now husband Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny; Karen Mason as one-time Paris Opera House corps de ballet choreographer Madame Giry; Mary Michael Patterson as Madame Giry’s daughter, Christine’s friend, and a former ballerina, Meg Giry; Katrina Kemp as Miss Fleck; Richard Koons as Mr. Squelch; and Stephen Petrovich as Dr. Gangle. Casey J. Lyons and Jake Heston Miller alternate as Christine’s 10-year-old son, Gustave, a child prodigy who sings and plays the piano like a certain “Angel of Music,” who once groomed his mom for stardom.
Kristen Blodgette has been on a first-name basis with Andrew Lloyd Webber for nearly 30 years. “My first collaboration with Andrew was on the 1984 national tour of Cats,” she says. According to her playbill bio, the 63-year-old native of the Cleveland, OH suburb of Fairview Park and 1976 graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music has served as “associate musical supervisor for The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway since 1988 and supervised 17 subsequent companies of Phantom worldwide.”
“I really met Andrew when I started on Phantom in 1988,” says Blodgette. “I started as a rehearsal pianist and one of two pianists in the pit. The music supervisor was David Caddick…. He really helped me a great deal. He hired me as his associate to supervise future productions. It was all about being in the right place at the right time.”
She adds, “[Music supervisors] are very much involved in the casting process. We choose conductors and hire orchestras. Anything that has to do with the music, I feel responsible for.” Blodgette says that it’s her responsibility to make sure that the music is played as the composer wrote it and heard as the composer desires it to be heard.
Blodgette says that Love Never Dies is a replica production. “Replica productions are meant to reflect the original direction and the original design of the [London/New York/Melbourne] production,” she says. “But they all evolve and improve.”
Music supervisor Kristen Blodgette says that her job on Love Never Dies — in a nutshell — is “to make sure the music is performed in the way that Andrew expects and requires.” She adds, “He comes and looks at his shows…. He has a presence on all of his shows.”
Kristen Blodgette confesses that she’s always been musical. “I started taking piano lessons when I was four,” she says. “It was very clear early on that my life was going to be in music.” After earning her Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance from University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Blodgette studied opera coaching and accompanying there.
She remembers, “I actually loved theater from the day that my parents first took me to see The Music Man in 1960. I knew that I needed to study classically, but I was always a musical theater/Broadway fanatic….
“When I was 25,” she says, ” I moved to New York to work in musical theater and on Broadway. I moved here with very little money, and started my career as a rehearsal pianist.”
In addition to her work on The Phantom of the Opera, Blodgette is the musical supervisor of the 2016 Broadway revival of Cats and the associate musical supervisor for original Broadway, tour, and Copenhagen productions of Cats.
“There isn’t a moment that I’m not stunned and thrilled that I’m involved with these productions,” says Kristen Blodgette. “I never take it for granted. Whenever I go back to New York to conduct Phantom, I’m just so happy when the chandelier goes up.”
She adds, “Love Never Dies has a very difficult and challenging score for the actors to sing…. In places, it’s positively operatic…. In casting and maintaining it, I have to make sure that they sing it in a very healthy way….
“The man who plays The Phantom has to sing a high B flat and a low A flat,” she says. “He has to have a wide vocal range, as does the woman playing Christine.”
Blodgette says, “I don’t usually travel with the show as the music supervisor. I usually rehearse the show and open the show, and then I come out and visit it from time to time.”
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 19th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh BWW TV interview Karen Mason, conducted by Jeffrey Kare: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interview-Karen-Mason-of-LOVE-NEVER-DIES-National-Tour-20171019.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents LOVE NEVER DIES: THE PHANTOM RETURNS at 8 p.m. Oct. 31, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 and 2, 8 p.m. Nov. 3, 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 4, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $35 and up, plus taxes and fees. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/83053.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.loveneverdies.com/sights-sounds/.
DPAC‘S 2017-18 “TEN GREAT YEARS” SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: https://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2017-18 and https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/announcing-suntrust-broadway-at-dpac-2017-2018-season.
U.S. TOUR: https://www.loveneverdies.com/, https://www.loveneverdies.com/ustour/, https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/love-never-dies–514806, http://www.facebook.com/loveneverdies, https://twitter.com/loveneverdies, and http://www.youtube.com/phantomloveneverdies.
CREATIVE TEAM: https://www.loveneverdies.com/ustour/creative/.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4th, performance.
The Phantom of Manhattan (1999 novel): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Phantom_of_Manhattan (Wikipedia).
The Novel: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Frederick Forsyth (novelist and book): http://www.frederickforsyth.co.uk/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/frederick-forsyth-514810 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Forsyth (Wikipedia).
Love Never Dies (2010 West End and 2011 Melbourne musical): https://www.loveneverdies.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/love-never-dies–514806 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Never_Dies_(musical) (Wikipedia).
Andrew Lloyd Webber (music and book): https://www.andrewlloydwebber.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/andrew-lloyd-webber-12073 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0515908/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/andrewlloydwebber (Facebook page), http://twitter.com/officialalw (Twitter page), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Lloyd_Webber (Wikipedia), and https://www.youtube.com/andrewlloydwebbermusicals (YouTube).
Ben Elton (book): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/ben-elton-4462 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Elton (Wikipedia).
Glenn Slater (book and lyrics): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/glenn-slater-80644 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_Slater (Wikipedia).
Charles Hart (additional lyrics): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/charles-hart-12947 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Hart_(lyricist) (Wikipedia).
Simon Phillips (director): https://www.hlamgt.com.au/client/simon-phillips/ (HLA Management Australia bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/simon-phillips-15877 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Phillips_(director) (Wikipedia).
Kristen Blodgette (music supervisor): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/kristen-blodgette-95014 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.msmnyc.edu/FacultyProfile/FID/7407300 (Manhattan School of Music faculty bio), https://www.facebook.com/kristen.blodgette (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/keba5 (Twitter page).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing email@example.com and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)