As the 25th-anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera – filmed live at the Royal Albert Hall – is about to be streamed online for free, Ramin Karimloo tells Matthew Hemley about appearing in the musical and why digital productions are so important right now...
You’ve played the Phantom in the original production of The Phantom of the Opera as well as in its sequel, Love Never Dies. What does this 25th-anniversary production mean to you?
The whole thing with this 25th production is that it lengthened my association with the role. I didn’t actually do that many performances in the West End production, unlike other long-standing Phantoms who have been with the show for so long. I did one contract for each incarnation – the original, and Love Never Dies. This production is the gift that keeps on giving in many ways, but more importantly it’s the love I have for the show that keeps on giving. It’s something I am extremely proud to be a part of. That stage is full of my friends, full of people I look up to and still look up to, and everyone there is celebrating Phantom. This show has inspired so many people.
What is it about the musical that people love and keep coming back to?
It’s the perfect creative marriage – it has a glorious score and Andrew knows how to make a tune that sticks with you. Then you have Hal Prince’s staging, Gillian Lynne’s choreography and Maria Bjornson’s design. Everything is simple. We always try to overcomplicate theatre, but they just had simple beauty with a story that is actually not that complicated. And you’re involved. You don’t have to overthink it. You are enraptured. There are so many great moments in the show.
What does the filmed version of the show offer that the live one might not?
The way they have filmed it, you would never see some of the moments live. There is a lot to take in with live theatre and that is why people come back so many times, as they get to see different things. But with the way they have edited this, you follow the story so well. I am really proud of this specific production. Right after that show finished, I could not give you one standout memory [about being in it]. But now it’s been 10 years, I relive it through people who see the filmed version and tell me about it on social media. I feel like, with all the hype behind it now ahead of tonight’s streaming, I am about to go on stage with it again. It’s incredible.
How important do you think digital productions are during this time?
This is as close as we will get to live theatre right now and this shows how hungry people are for theatre and how much people adore theatre. And this is a global event. Everyone will be in the same place, at home, at the same time and we can all go to the theatre together, for free. You don’t get to do that, ever. There was a time when movie musicals started to happen and people were talking about whether it would hurt theatre. But I think it made people want to go to see a live show. People will want to see more of it. Tonight, people can escape for two and a half hours. And it’s weird to think people across the globe can do the same thing at the exact same time. It’s awesome.
Your last appearance on the London stage was the 2016 production of Murder Ballad. Do you have plans to do more here?
I hope so. I am grateful that I have been busy, with television work and other projects, but I miss the camaraderie of theatre. My actual stage time in Phantom wasn’t that long, so of course I would love another go at that. I am looking for new West End work, or Broadway work. I miss it. I love the actors over here. They are a great bunch and a great community. We are pressing pause for now, but it will come back with a vengeance, I am sure of it.
The Phantom of the Opera is free to watch from 7pm BST on Friday April 17 (available for 24 hours for UK viewers and 48 hours in other territories) as part of The Shows Must Go On, a series offering a different Andrew Lloyd Webber musical each week.