The Phantom rises again

The Phantom of the Opera is coming back — but this time, he’ll be haunting the amusement park at New York’s Coney Island. And he’ll be played by a Canadian.

British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber

LONDON — The Phantom of the Opera is coming back — but this time, he’ll be haunting the amusement park at New York’s Coney Island.

And he’ll be played by a Canadian.

Star composer Andrew Lloyd Webber on Thursday announced a long-awaited sequel to his massively successful Phantom of the Opera, one of the world’s best loved and longest running musicals.

“There’s unfinished business,” Lloyd Webber told journalists assembled for a teaser — a new song featuring the titular Phantom, played by Toronto’s Ramin Karimloo, and his love interest Christine, played by American Sierra Boggess.

“I don’t regard this as a sequel; it’s a stand-alone piece,” Webber said.

The new production will be called Love Never Dies. It is due to open in London in March. The musical also will be staged in New York beginning November 2010 and will open in Australia in 2011.

The musical picks up a decade after the original’s conclusion, and has the Phantom trading his customary hideout beneath the Paris opera house for Coney Island, the iconic Brooklyn amusement park known for its roller coasters and “Nathan’s Famous” hot dogs.

Lloyd Webber said he wanted to produce a sequel because the original’s ending, which sees Christine leave the brooding Phantom for his rival Raoul, was unsatisfactory.

“Christine goes off with this boring guy, the Phantom disappears,” Lloyd Webber said. He said he wanted to set the piece at Coney Island because, at its turn-of-the-century heyday, it was “the eighth wonder of the world.”

Lloyd Webber sketched out a broad outline of the plot, saying that the Phantom made his way to Coney Island after loosing Christine. The Phantom rises from one of the attractions at a freak show to control the entire complex, without ever losing his love for Christine.

Other characters from the original also reprise their roles.

The original hit musical, a longtime fixture on the London and New York stages, featured elaborate staging and songs such as The Music of the Night, and All I Ask of You.

Karimloo, who was born in Iran and raised in Toronto, is currently playing the Phantom in the original musical at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London.

He landed the role in 2007 at age 28, becoming the youngest ever Phantom of the Opera.

Karimloo started his career as a singer in rock bands in Toronto and on cruise ships before moving to the U.K. His other stage credits include Joseph Papp’s Pirates of Penzance, Sunset Boulevard and Les Miserables.

Based on the eponymous French novel by Gaston Leroux, the play is the longest-running show on Broadway, beating Webber’s other masterpiece, Cats in 2006, and reaching an unprecedented 9,000 performances on the night of Sept. 17. Producers say it has been seen by more than 100 million people worldwide and has been translated into 15 languages and staged in 25 countries, including Brazil, China and Poland.

But musical sequels on Broadway have tended to flop. Annie, which opened in 1977, was one of Broadway’s biggest hits, but Annie 2: Miss Hannigan’s Revenge closed during its 1989 out of town tryout in Washington. The sequel to Bye Bye Birdie, a Tony-winning hit in 1960, died on Broadway in 1981 after only four performances.

But Lloyd Webber said he was satisfied with the story, and steered clear of trying predict the sequel’s success. “I’m very happy with the piece and that’s enough for me,” he said.

Tickets for the London shows at the Adelphi Theatre were placed on sale Thursday, and fans also were told they could pre-order the album of the show’s tunes.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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