Get ready, Phantom of the Opera fans: The super-lavish Australian production of Love Never Dies will debut at movie theaters across America on February 28 and March 7 in screenings sponsored by Fathom Events. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to his beloved romantic musical has been playing to sold-out crowds at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre (after debuting in Melbourne last May), and Broadway.com recently chatted with stars Ben Lewis and Anna O’Byrne about the thrill and terror of seeing their performances as the Phantom and Christine on the big screen.
“It was amazing and thrilling and overwhelming,” Lewis said of watching the film, “but it’s difficult to be objective because we’re still performing it eight times a week. It’s my understanding that this is the first time a commercial musical has been filmed in this manner in Australia, so we’re all very proud to be part of it.”
The movie preserves a lavish production that features 300 costumes and sets lit by 5,000 onstage light bulbs (both designed by Gabriela Tylesova) as well as a cast of 36 accompanied by a 21-piece orchestra. “My parents have seen the show 18 times, and each time they pick up something new and different,” O’Brien said with a laugh. “You’ve got these big, sumptuous scenes in Coney Island, but also an intimate love story.”
Lewis and O’Brien didn’t see the London premiere production of Love Never Dies, which was rejiggered after opening, but they note that Lloyd Webber felt strongly about streamlining the storytelling for the Australian production. “The mandate was to bring the characters that everyone knows and loves to the foreground,” says Lewis, “to take the audiences on a journey by clarifying and intensifying the relationships” among the Phantom, Christine, Raoul, Meg Giry and Madame Giry.
One thing that didn’t need any improvement was Lloyd Webber’s soaring score. “He writes for the soprano voice so well,” says O’Brien, who began her career as an understudy in Phantom and now has a busy opera career. “As soon as I heard those sweeping melodies, I knew I wanted to be involved in this show. It’s a thrill to sing this music every night.”
“To me, it’s the best score he’s ever written,” declares Lewis, who plans to move to London to pursue a West End career after Love Never Dies closes in six weeks. (Not surprisingly, both actors aspire to work on Broadway one day.) “Andrew has always written amazing tunes that people remember,” Lewis says, “but ‘Til I Hear You Sing,’ my opening number, one of the most beautiful songs I have ever sung. This show has been a labor of love for Andrew, and I think he's done a magnificent job.”