With touring productions of Love Never Dies and School Of Rock now out on the road, Andrew Lloyd Webber is starting to think about what’s next. And he can’t tell us yet.
“At the moment I”m reading and reading and looking and searching and trying to find a subject and wanting to get on and wanting to find something new, but I haven’t found a story that really grabs me,” Webber tells Billboard. “That’s the funny thing; As I get older and I look back on things, I realize that a great story can carry an OK score, but a great score can’t really carry a story that doesn’t work. So I just want to be sure. I’ve gone down the line with lots of things and drawn backward, and it doesn’t quite work.”
Webber was in both Detroit and Columbus, Ohio this week to check out the road companies of his two musicals, with particular interest in Love Never Dies. The sequel to The Phantom Of The Opera was panned on London’s West End in 2010, with its Broadway production subsequently canceled. But it was redeemed by a retooled version of the show that opened in Australia the following year and has since played in Copenhagen, Tokyo and Hamburg before coming to North America earlier this month and Baltimore, with its official opening at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre.
“It means a huge amount to me to have it in the state that it is,” Webber said. “I think now it could never be any better. All of the work, from my point of view, that I can do has been done with it. All I can say is after a long journey it’s got here in the form that I’m happy with it. I have to hand it to Randy (Buck, the show’s producer for Troika Entertainment; They’ve done a fantastic production of it. It’s as much as any composer can hope for.”
Webber, who was battling prostate cancer while Love Never Dies was in development in Britain, doesn’t beat himself up over the show’s initial failure. “The problems we had in London were not only due to the fact that I wasn’t very well at the time,” he explained, “but that…although there were great people working on it, the actual production design didn’t marry it. The extraordinary thing about this (current) production is it marries the music in an entirely different way, but exactly as Maria Bjornson design so fantastically did with the original Phantom.”
Love Never Dies is set in 1907 Coney Island, about a decade after The Phantom’s events in Paris, and brings the titular character and his muse, Chrstine Daae, together again with a couple of major twists in their story. Webber is confident that “with this, the chapter’s concluded,” but he’s happy to have given the characters’ stories some resolution.
“I suppose the original Phantom was such an enormous part of my life,” Webber says, “in one sense I wanted to kind of close the story and close that chapter for myself as a composer. But so many people said to me afterwards, ‘What happened to them?’ The ending is mine, and I realized in a sense that I left it as unfinished business.”
Producer Randall Buck says there are no firm plans to bring the revised Love Never Dies to Broadway, but that’s certainly one of Webber’s goals. “Well of course, I love it,” he acknowledges. “All I can say is after a long journey it’s got here in the form that I’m happy with it. I have to hand it to Randy and (Troika Entertainment); They’ve done a fantastic production of it. It’s as much as any composer can hope for.”
Love Never Dies is in Detroit through Oct. 29, when it moves to Durham, N.C. with dates currently booked into September of 2018.