As Austin’s Bass Concert Hall prepares for the return of The Phantom in Love Never Dies, I was able to peek behind the mask to get to know more about the man behind the mystery in this production. Known for previously taking up the role of Raoul in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, Bronson Norris Murphy now makes waves as he premiers the role of The Phantom in the first North American production of Love Never Dies.
Coming from a Kentucky childhood, Murphy was interested in the arts from an early age. He has always had a love for music and singing, but it wasn’t until he made the move to New York that he really considered a future on the stage. That passion put in motion a carrier that includes the 30th Anniversary Company of Cats (Gus, Growltiger and Bustopher Jones) and multiple US productions of West Side Story as Tony, not to mention more than 40 roles with various theatres and orchestras across the country.
“Early in life the performing bug bit me, and I started taking acting as a craft very seriously in college,” Murphy said. “I went to NYU for grad school and stayed in New York after grad school where I got casted for the national tour for Cats, the Musical, and that’s how I got into the Andrew Lloyd Webber family. Then a few years later, I was cast in the Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera where I did three years in nine different roles, and Raoul was my 10th. Then this audition for Love Never Dies came up and I took that and changed from Raoul to the Phantom in a few month’s time.”
Love Never Dies presents a unique opportunity for Murphy, who has now gets to view the chaos and romance from behind the mask, when before, he was on the other side of the coin as Christine’s love interest.
“I’m playing my arch nemesis now,” he stated. “I started out as Raoul on Broadway and now I’m playing his enemy, The Phantom, but it somehow gives me a better perspective of the humanity of this guy. He’s not just a monster; he has some heart. Especially now that the show takes place 10 years later. We all change a lot in 10 years, so I can bring a different level of humanity that isn’t given necessarily in the direction.”
Murphy is hopeful for the production’s reception in the United States, after having undergone a massive overhaul in Australia with Andrew Lloyd Webber overseeing the substantial re-writes and shift in creative direction. The show was not well received in its original form oversees, prompting the reimagining that American audiences will be met with. The original production was a much darker rendition, but Murphy believes audiences will see this diamond sparkle.
“This show started in London in 2010, and it met some critical backlash,” Murphy explained. “Andrew believes in this show, so he went to Australia with the show and hired a new director and new design team and re-tooled the show which then was a critical success. That’s the version that we bring to the US. I think the London production was their version of a workshop — they didn’t know quite what they had. They had a lot of star power behind it and a lot of great names, but like anything, it needed time to gestate and become something different. And I think a different set of eyes on it, a different director, a different choreographer, different designers — I think they just made the story make more sense. The story is definitely a roller coaster; it’s got its ups and downs. And if it’s in the wrong hands — I’m not saying it was in the wrong hands — it can become really confusing for audiences. I think maybe that’s where it was, and I hope that’s what we’ve fixed, here in the US.”
Despite the uphill battle the show has faced, Murphy remains positive and confident in their production and thankful for the opportunity.
“I would say it’s a dream come true, but I never dreamed it because I thought it was so far off in the distance,” he admitted. “It seems like every actor wants to play these big roles, and to be able to step behind the mask and create my own version of this guy is really a gift.”
Love Never Dies will make its premiere in Austin at Bass Concert Hall from November 27 to December 2, 2018 as part of a North American Tour. Tickets are available at BroadwayinAustin.com, texasperformingarts.org, the Bass Concert Hall ticket office, all Texas Box Office Outlets, by phone at (512) 477-6060.
Nick Bailey is a forward thinking journalist with a well-rounded skill set including writing, design, and photography. Nick now resides in Austin, TX after earning a degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis on journalism from Texas A&M University—Commerce.