April 19, 2010
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Ramin Karimloo And Sierra Boggess Talk LOVE NEVER DIES
When BWW:UK arrives at the Adelphi to meet the stars of Love Never Dies, Ramin Karimloo is nowhere to be seen. Sierra Boggess welcomes us in and suggests we start the interview without him...
Hi Sierra! Thanks for meeting us. Summer's already told me that you're all so happy to be here...
We are, it's a lovely company to be in.
She said that she sees you all the time because you're in town!
I know! We're always together, yeah. All of us principals really bonded. The whole company is bonded; it's nice.
So are you enjoying London?
Yes! I love it, I really do. It's kind of like it was a dream to live here when I was in school. In 2002 I came here to study abroad and I fell in love with London, and I thought one day I'm going to live here. One day I'm going to be in the West End. And now here I am!
When were you approached to do this part?
October 2008. That was the first workshop I was a part of. I had auditioned for Andrew a couple of weeks before that. I was still doing The Little Mermaid on Broadway at the time, and Disney was nice enough to let me out for a couple of weeks to do that. So I flew over here and did that!
The Little Mermaid must have been amazing to do.
Oh yes! Ariel was always my favourite Disney princess, and she still is, but to actually get to originate her on Broadway and be her was just so exciting. I love everything that she stands for and you can reach such a lot of people's lives being a Disney princess because for some people she means the world to them. It's crazy and amazing and inspiring that people are so passionate about a fictional story character, but I got to meet a lot of amazing people. I loved playing her.
And you played Christine in the original Phantom in Vegas, is that right?
Yes. Andrew and Hal were opening a brand new production and were opening the original company of that, and that's when I first met Andrew. That was also a dream come true because I'd always wanted to play Christine. In school, I obviously studied dance, but so I really wanted to study pointe so that I could go on pointe, because I knew one day I wanted to play Christine, so I worked really hard and I mastered it so that one day I could do it. People always ask me, give me some advice, how do you get to be where you are? It's not by accident, it's a lot of hard work. If you want to play Christine, then work on opera and dance. Do everything that you possibly can for you to get the part. When I got Little Mermaid, I knew that I had to be on Heelys, so I got a pair of Heelys before I ever auditioned, so that I could practise on them, so that when I went in the audition it wouldn't be the first time. It was interesting because when I went to the callback, there was five girls it was down to for Ariel, and not one of them had ever put on a pair of Heelys before it for me. I thought, this is interesting, because I just thought it was normal for me to do that. Why wouldn't you go out and do everything you possibly could in order to be prepared for an audition? I didn't think whoa, I've got this, but I wasn't nervous, because I practised.
Wearing Heelys on stage and must have been terrifying!
Yes! I was learning from the kids who played Flounder. They were kids, they were 10 years old, and I learnt most about Heelys from watching them, because kids have a different centre of gravity than we do and they also have less fear, they're not worried that they're going to fall over and crack their head. So I would watch them. I was an ice skater for 10 years when I was little so I know the feeling of gliding and keeping your upper body activated, though I never skated and sang at the same time! In Mermaid I had to come out and skate backwards and sing and make it look effortless!
You talked about the kids playing Flounder; in Love Never Dies you've got a whole set of sons. Is it difficult to keep the dynamic of the mother-son relationship?
It's not, actually. There are several kids cast, but there are three main Gustaves and each one has a block of four performances, so within each kid I know what their Gustave's character is. I just have to make sure I know who's playing Gustave, else I'll do something another Gustave normally does. But it's nice, because I do want to tailor the mother-son relationship to the child on stage with me.
Having played Christine before, how does your interpretation change?
With this script, we're asked to delve into the heart of the character more. Things that I've gone through in 10 years changed me greatly and even things that have gone into my life in the past four years - because I played Christine four years ago - has influenced how I play her now. I think it's just really thinking about these issues that, if the love of her life did disappear, I think it's more psychological. Jack, our director, said I'm not putting you in a performance mode, I'm putting you in a profound psychological play. That's where I'm at with it. She has a child now, which changes everything. She's married now and she has settled in her life. She's an accomplished opera singer but there's something missing, but the spark isn't there.
Ramin finally enters, tiptoeing in the door.
SB: You're late. No one cares what you have to say any more!
RK: That's OK. I'll just sit here and you can talk!
SB: The spark has gone out in her. It's the story of her finding what he brings out in her, what no one else is been able to bring out in her for 10 years and what that does to a person.
She's a deeply sad character, isn't she?
SB: Yes. Exactly. One of my words that I use for her is that she's profoundly sad. She carries a great unhappiness with her, and she carries a lot of guilt. She is responsible for her life, she is responsible for the fact that she chose Raoul, and she's realised that she is responsible for their lives. I think when you realise this as a person then you can get profoundly sad. In the second act when she does sing, it suddenly brings that great joy in her.
RK: It's a major change for the Phantom, because circumstances have changed for him. It's pretty much a 180 turn. What was his yin is his yang now, from darkness to light. He's back in the place where as a child he was chastised and beaten, he is now celebrated. That must completely change this guy's psychological behaviour. This character, there's so many different interpretations, people perceive him by watching him let alone playing him. I believe he is a product of social conditions, I don't think he's a natural-born killer; I've played in younger because I am younger so I've got to honour that truth, and I like him being more contemporary. I've got this beautiful mind yet no one will see it for what it is, they don't see the beauty underneath which is one of the themes of the show. So even though society celebrates him for his genius which for someone who's hidden away for so long, although it's a positive change it's still not right with him.
Obviously people who come to see the show have certain expectations of how the characters should be played.
RK: I get quite passionate about that. Why should they stay the same? What story are we going to tell if they're the same? Just go and see the first one. I'd like anyone to look at their lives 10 years prior to the day they think of this. How different are they? Look at what life is given them over the last 10 years. Take these extraordinary circumstances - they can't be the same people. They just can't be. As an actor I wouldn't want to play that same story in a different scenario. I've just done it for two years. They have to be different, and they are. You have to honour what happened, choices Christine and the Phantom would have made in their lives, all those repercussions. Let it be known that Sierra is nodding!
There was so much talk about the show prior to opening, did you feel any kind of pressure?
RK: It sold tickets!
SB: We didn't, really. We know better than to allow that in. This piece means too much to too many people, first of all Andrew Lloyd Webber, and so we have a responsibility as actors to tell the story and that's all we are in control of and it becomes an exercise in controlling what you can control. What we can control is when you get on stage and we said to each other that that's the safest place we can be. The media does what it tells. There are bloggers and reviewers and there are people whose job it is to read all that stuff and go through and see what they want to take from it, but that can't be our job. I believe in the story too much, especially the journey that the Phantom and Christine go on. It's too personal to me to want to mess with it so I just wouldn't allow myself to have that pressure that you could put on yourself.
Well, it is my job to read all of it, and before opening night I was thinking I hope they're not reading all the hype, so I'm glad to find out that you weren't!
RK: Well, that's it, you just said it was before we opened, so how can they be so passionate? How can they feel such passionate hatred for something? If they use their resources and energy for something useful, think of what could have happened. It's a piece of art.
SB: In the fairytale language, some people enjoy "and they lived happily ever after". The prince and the princess get married, they live happily ever after. Some people like to know and will think about what happens after that happily ever after. Andrew and the creators of the show wanted to know what happened afterwards. So the people who got upset, I imagine, were the people who were thinking no, just leave them alone! I don't want to know what happens! I don't want to think about it! This piece is not a a fantasy. It isn't what is the Phantom, is he human? It isn't that. This piece is making us look at them as people. Like Andrew has said, in the first one they are sort of two-dimensional characters. There are so many dimensions to these characters because we are choosing to explore them from the heart of who they are and 10 years later.
When you were playing the part originally, did you ever think what might happen to them?
SB: Yes. Definitely.
RK: Even when I was Raoul, in 2004, I remember as the show finished every night I never thought as I was punting away with Christine we were about to live happily ever after. How could we? What you say about a fairytale is totally spot on, because there's no villain in this piece, and if there is a happy ending you get rid of him at the end. Everyone is responsible.
SB: People like to blame Raoul and I think he gets such a bad rap. He's a good guy. Yes, he's turned into this gambler and this drunk, but at the heart of him it's because she isn't able to give him everything he wants. It's neither of their faults, they're just mismatched people, they fell in love with the beauty of one another. They were young, they were overcome with that, just the excitement of each other, but at the heart of it, what the Phantom and Christine had, there wasn't that. Everyone is just trying to do the best job they can. You can't fault him for turning to drinking and gambling.
RK: It's not because he's a jerk. There's a cancer in this relationship. If you are in a relationship where something's not right, and you're almost forcing it to work, that could lead you to just numb the pain. Or use prescription painkillers.
I think Raoul is a much more sympathetic character in this than in the original.
SB: He is.
RK: He gets it, after the bar. He realises, in a roundabout way, that he's doing the same thing to Christine as the Phantom was doing. He's forcing her. What's that about?
Will there be a Phantom three?
SB: Yes. Set in Tahiti. Steel drums.
RK: I think everyone would be panning that one.
SB: No! No! I think Andrew has said himself he doesn't even want to watch the last 20 minutes of the show because he can't play with these characters again in the same way. It's fitting ending to the Phantom saga. I don't think there's a need for a Phantom three.
RK: There can't be.