By Laurence J. Sasso, Jr.
If you have been wondering what happens to Christine and the man behind the mask after The Phantom of the Opera ends, you can stop guessing. Love Never Dies picks up their stories in, of all places, Coney Island, New York.
The production is set in 1907, ten years after The Phantom disappears from the Paris Opera House. It turns out that he has escaped to the amusement park mecca in America where freak shows and fantastic spectacles offer a more hospitable venue for him, the scarred and tortured mad genius who met such poignant disappointment in his pursuit of love.
Meghan Picerno as Christine Daae leads the cast of Love Never Dies. A bright and rising star in both the opera and musical theater worlds, she is making her tour debut in the Andrew Lloyd Webber & Ben Elton sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. The show will be at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) December 26-31.
In an exclusive interview with The Smithfield Times Ms. Picerno, an Illinois native who now makes New York City her home, confessed excitement about her impending first visit to Rhode Island. Speaking by telephone from Fort Lauderdale, Florida during an especially cold day here, she commented that she didn’t want to make anyone jealous, but it was 84 degrees and the beach was beckoning. Yet, she was anxious to talk about the Ocean state, of which she has heard great things.
“Everyone has been telling me I will love it,” she declared, adding that despite being on her inaugural tour, she is relishing the challenge and the opportunity to travel to distant places and bring this show to new audiences.
Calling herself a bit of a nomad, she remarked “luckily I love to travel.”
Her still young career is somewhat unusual in that the classically-trained coloratura soprano has already compiled impressive credits in both opera and musical theater. She says that her biggest break was probably winning the role of Cunegonde in the New York City Opera’s Candide, which was directed by the legendary Hal Prince.
“The universe sends me these wonderful people,” she exclaimed, reflecting on the coincidences that have facilitated her accomplishments in both genres.
“I’m a stage creature, and the worlds of opera [and musicals] are blending a lot more. As an American, I believe they are part of our culture and the distinctions are less striking.”
In addition to classical opera and musicals she also has performed in the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, done revues, and sung in solo concerts at David Geffen Hall and Alice Tully Hall, among others.
“I have the ability to chameleon [from one to the other],” she observes.
The Love Never Dies tour is the production’s first in the United States, having premiered in Australia in 2011 and then been extensively reworked. It will be on the road for one year with the company doing six to eight shows every week.
Ms. Picerno explains, “On days off instead of resting you’re traveling. In opera you get 48 hours off between shows, and you rest.”
“So, keeping healthy on the tour is probably my number one priority. I live kind of like a monk,” she laughs.
“I don’t party or drink. I don’t talk a lot when I’m getting ready for a performance. It’s a marathon, but it’s awesome. The people are great to be with, too. It’s a great human experience.
“We really are a family in this cast. It’s an honor and a responsibility to bring this show to America and American audiences,” the diminutive actress says, noting irrepressibly that she feels an affinity for Rhode Island before she even gets here.
“I like [the state] already. It’s like me – small but mighty.”
Love Never Dies also stars Gardar Thor Cortes as The Phantom and Sean Thompson as Raoul. Music is by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Glenn Slater. As noted above, Webber and Ben Elton did the book with additional lyrics by Charles Hart. Orchestrations are the work of David Cullen and Webber. The production is directed by Simon Phillips.
For more information and tickets contact PPAC at