Andrew Lloyd Webber is working on a new musical, but he’s keeping the details close.
“It’s too early to talk about it,” says the composer of the blockbusters “Cats,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
“I’m looking quite seriously at a story and trying to get under the skin of another culture and some musical styles, but so many things have to come together for a musical to work. That’s why I’m so pleased with this production of ‘Love Never Dies,’” he says of the sequel to “Phantom” that Broadway in Boston is presenting at the Opera House Jan. 30-Feb. 11.
“Love Never Dies,” based on the 1999 novella “The Phantom of Manhattan” by Frederick Forsyth (“The Dogs of War,” “The Day of the Jackal”), premiered in London in 2010 to less-than-enthusiastic reviews.
“I was not able to give that production my full attention because I had [prostate] cancer at that time,” says Lloyd Webber, who was successfully treated for the disease. “But one of the problems was that the design of that production did not fit the story. So it was absolutely joyous for me to go see the production in Australia [in 2011] and see that [set designer] Gabriela Tylesova had created a design that transports the audience to Coney Island.”
“Love Never Dies” revisits Christine Daaé and the Phantom 10 years after their encounter in the Paris Opera House. In the story, set in 1907 and adapted for the stage by Ben Elton (“We Will Rock You”), the Phantom has escaped Paris and is now living with carnival freaks on Coney Island. Christine is now an international opera star and the mother of a young son, but her marriage to Raoul has become strained by his drinking and gambling. She has been hired to come to the United States to perform at an opera house, but the Phantom, who never stopped loving her, lures his former protege and her son to the amusement park.
“She’s a strong young woman who is doing the best she can,” says Meghan Picerno, who plays Christine. “I think everyone can relate to those ‘should’ situations she finds herself in. You know, you should be happy with this job or relationship, but something in her soul tells her it’s not right.”
Picerno, who is a classically trained coloratura soprano, says she was introduced to “The Phantom of the Opera” only a year ago, by legendary director Hal Prince.
“I played Cunegonde in his New York City Opera production of ‘Candide,’ and when he asked me if I’d considered doing more musical theater, I said I hadn’t seen much, and so he sent me to ‘Phantom,’ ” she says. “I loved the mix of musical styles, the operatic nature of the story, and the audience’s passionate response.”
Stepping into a role that so many people are familiar with was, Picerno admits, intimidating.
“It’s a great responsibility to deliver this next chapter of Christine’s life,” she says. “Audiences have ideas about what happened to their favorite ingenue, and I want to do her justice.”
Picerno says the setting in Coney Island is pivotal to the story.
“I think in ‘Phantom’ we are seeing the world from Christine’s perspective,” she says. “But in ‘Love Never Dies,’ we are in the Phantom’s world, and she is the outsider.”
Picerno says she was struck by the maturity and complexity of Lloyd Webber’s music.
“It’s haunting, and dark, but also very hopeful,” she says. “It’s so intertwined in the story, it helps me create the character.”
Lloyd Webber says he is particularly proud of the music he’s written for “Love Never Dies.”
“‘Phantom’ became a huge part of my life unexpectedly,” says Lloyd Webber, speaking by phone from the Caribbean. “I was astonished when it became bigger than ‘Cats,’ ” he says. “Writing the music for Freddie Forsyth’s story and Ben Elton’s adaptation allowed me to close a chapter in my own life. For me, it became an opportunity to push my own boundaries as a composer and take the style of high romantic music as far as I could go. I think this is some of my best work.”
Although the music of “Phantom” elicited comparisons to Puccini and other operatic composers, Lloyd Webber says the music of “Love Never Dies” reflects only his own style of composing.
“I think everyone who is writing for musical theater has to be the servant of the story,” he says. “This music reflects the sounds of vaudeville and Coney Island at the turn of the 20th century, but that is done to help the audience find their way into this world. It’s really an extension of the high romantic style I’ve written before.”
But even though Lloyd Webber says he’s taken that style as far as he can go, he remains coy about the kind of music he’s pursuing for his next project.
“I like all kinds of music,” he says. “On my Spotify right now I’ve got music by A.R. Rahman (whose “Bombay Dreams” Lloyd Webber produced in 2002), Metallica, and a Prokofiev symphony. I don’t want to be pigeonholed.”
LOVE NEVER DIES
Presented by Broadway in Boston. At the Opera House, Jan. 30-Feb. 11. Tickets: From $44, 880-982-2787, www.broadwayinboston.com
Terry Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org