If you're a lover of sequels, there are two biggies this fall in Philly theater. You have Lucas Hnaf's A Doll's House, Part 2 coming up at the Arden Theatre Company. And there's the national tour company of Love Never Dies – the Andrew Lloyd Webber sequel to Phantom of the Opera – Oct. 2-7 at the Academy of Music, part of the Kimmel Center's Broadway Philadelphia series.
Another sequel-lover, Sean Thompson, plays Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, in Love Never Dies, and is he ever a Philly guy par excellence. He gives his bona fides: "Born and raised in Mayfair, across the street from Greenman's Deli and down the street from the original Chickie's and Pete's. Archbishop Ryan High School, studied theater and English at Temple. Went to New York, moved back to Philly in 2016 … and promptly landed a role in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway. That show closed just a month before Love Never Dies got rolling. "I am very fortunate and grateful for that timing," he says.
Love Never Dies is set 10 years after Phantom. Christine is now a big diva who is invited to perform in the United States. Our setting is the Phantasma, a venue at Coney Island where Christina has been summoned to sing. Raoul, the moneybags and patron of the Paris opera in Phantom, is now a dissolute, gambling failure as a husband and a father.
"I never aspired to play Raoul in Phantom," says the baritenor. "He's the archetypal hero who saves Christine, but he's not that interesting. But in Love Never Dies, there's so much more to his story. He comes to realize that, although he loves music, he doesn't understand it, and he can't give Christine the gift of music, the thing she wants and needs the most – but the Phantom can." Yes, that masked man turns up again. In fact, in the number titled "Devil Take the Hindmost," the two have a head-to-head showdown of sorts.
True, this is the lesser-known sequel to Phantom, that most mega of mega-musicals. And Love did not get much love in its 2010 London debut. So how have audiences been reacting? "They've been very, very positive since we started last fall in Detroit," Thompson says. "I think the music is wonderful, and this is a production that looks and sounds like nothing else." Gabriela Tylesova's set design, especially, has made jaws drop around the world. "It's an amusement park feeling, with no straight lines, very creepy," Thompson says.
Thompson is "a huge horror-movie fan" who is really into sequels. "Friday the 13th Part 2 was so great, and I just loved Scream 2 because I loved Scream so much," he says. "It's just so much fun to have a sequel to something you really love, and that's what you'll get in Love Never Dies."