Now, more Americans will get to see Karimloo in action when the DVD of the 25th Anniversary concert of Phantom, in which he plays the masked impresario, is released on February 7. TheaterMania recently spoke with Karimloo about the experience, his return to Les Miz, and his soon-to-be-released CD and upcoming concert tour.
THEATERMANIA: How did it feel to be asked to play The Phantom in the concert?
RAMIN KARIMLOO: I wasn't expecting to be asked. When I was at the Whatsonstage Awards, when I won for Love Never Dies, our producer, Cameron Macintosh, asked me to do this concert. And I thought "what concert, Les Miz?" Then I thought he meant he wanted to be Raoul.
TM: Did it turn out to be a fun experience?
RK: It was such a busy time that we were too tired to be nervous or have fun. We were working so hard and things were changing all the time. We were doing a lot of make-up checks, since it's so hard to get it right on HD. It was actually more fun after, when we were reading people's tweets and stuff.
TM: Tell me about working with your co-stars, specifically Sierra Boggess as Christine and Hadley Fraser as Raoul?
RK: With Sierra, it was only our second time working together, but I felt like I've known her all my life. It's sort of unexplainable. She and I can go somewhere I don't experience with other people. I really love our chemistry, both off-stage and on. Hadley is one of my best friends, so that helped us make a great trio. And I think we all care about our craft and make choices about our characters with integrity.
TM: What was it like to play The Phantom in Love Never Dies?
RK: One of the reasons I took that opportunity was to see how it would be if I move that character forward 10 years. It wasn't something I planned to audition for, but one day, I found myself in Andrew Lloyd Webber's office singing sheet music I've never seen and I didn't know why I was there, but I learned the song "Until I Hear You Sing" very quickly. Then I was asked to do workshop after workshop, and then I got the part. It was a great experience.
TM: You were supposed to come to Broadway with the show, but it didn't happen. Is doing a Broadway show important to you?
RK: New York is one of my favorite cities and while I do want to be on Broadway, I don't see it as the pinnacle of theater. To me, being on the West End or in Toronto or in the right regional theater is not any more or less important as Broadway, as long as the show furthers my craft. That said, I'd love to work with Jack O'Brien (who directed Love Never Dies) on his turf, and I would love to do a show with Norbert Leo Butz. I think that would make me a better actor.
TM: How are you enjoying your stint as Jean Valjean?
RK: I didn't want to do it. I had done two other roles in the show and Valjean never interested me. I didn't think we could connect. I didn't want this to be an exercise of a young guy playing old. I am so glad Cameron talked me into it, because I feel like I am doing my best work and it's the most enjoyable experience. Once he asked me, I read the novel properly, and it just opened a new world for the character. I found his struggle with God and faith and how he finds his way through God.
TM: Tell me about your new CD.
RK: While I was doing Love Never Dies, this deal came my way and it was the right one. I didn't want to make a standard theater album, because there's too many out there. This CD taps into my roots, and the songs I like to listen to, whether they're folk, country or bluegrass. I have co-written some of them; my lyrics have to be something I've lived or been part of. Sometimes, I would write a diary entry during my time in the make-up chair and then put it to music. And we fit in some Phantom songs, but with a take so that they sound like the rest of the album. I think it's a really good crossover CD.
TM: You're going to do a UK concert tour in support of the CD. Are you comfortable being "you" and not a character like The Phantom or Jean Valjean?
RK: Not yet, but I am glad I did a mini-tour before this stint in Les Miz so I know what to expect. I really want to have some sections where it's just me with a piano and guitar and I feel like I am telling stories. I think it will be best when it's as intimate as possible.