After the video – which featured footage of the youthful Lloyd Webber with original stars Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford as well as dignitaries including Princess Diana – the composer came on stage and shared an anecdote. During a run-through for the event, he’d overheard a technician watching the Phantom video comment: “That Webber guy, he’s got to be absolutely mad to follow that ... What’s he going to call it: Ugly Bastard II?”
The anecdote raised a laugh and any doubts it may have highlighted were assuaged as Lloyd Webber went on to explain why he wasn’t mad. His inspiration for Love Never Dies was initially hatched 17 years, when Phantom’s late designer Maria Bjornson jokingly complained how “unsatisfactory” she found the original musical’s conclusion: “Christine goes off with the boring guy and the Phantom disappears. What kind of ending is that?”
Lloyd Webber’s first proper collaboration attempt at a sequel was with the novelist Frederick Forsyth, who went on to incorporate the ideas into a novella called The Phantom of Manhattan, but the story never gelled for the composer. The real breakthrough came three years ago when he got Ben Elton involved and the action was relocated to Coney Island.
Today’s presentation continued with black-and-white archive footage of Coney Island during its heyday in the early 20th century when Sigmund Freud famously said it was the only reason to go to America – an “eighth wonder of the world”, according to Lloyd Webber, like Las Vegas today but “quadrupled”.
Karimloo then performed one of the songs from the show, “Til I Hear You Sing”. As he sang, he laid down the famous white mask and the Phantom’s Paris Opera House lair set, with swirling smoke and candelabra, sank away. Boggess, dressed up as Christine in a flowing wig and shimmery gold, floor-length gown, watched on, sitting on a throne stage-left.
Karimloo’s performance was greeted with enthusiastic applause from the packed audience of journalists and industry guests – as well as a select number of “Phantom phans” who won a competition to attend today’s event. The presentation was followed by a series of separate press interviews with Lloyd Webber, Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess and director Jack O\'Brien.
Whatsonstage.com’s full coverage from today’s Love Never Dies launch includes: