BWW Interview: Mary Michael Patterson of LOVE NEVER DIES at Peace Center
We recently spoke to Mary Michael Patterson who plays Meg Giry in this new touring production and previously played Christine in the Broadway production of Phantom. She told us about the difference in the two roles and what we can expect from this musical sequel.
BWW: Please tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Texas, in a small town west of Fort Worth, then I went to the University of Michigan for musical theatre and then I graduated and moved to New York City where I lived for about ten years. I was in some Broadway shows and did some work regionally but this is my first tour. And now I'm doing Love Never Dies.
BWW: You played Christine on Broadway. How does that experience compare to your role in Love Never Dies?
They're completely different in every way, of course. Christine in the original Phantom is such an iconic role and it was always such a dream role of mine that being able to do that on Broadway was an amazing, fulfilling experience. It required a lot of technical signing and using my head voice the whole time, and not a whole lot of dancing. Whereas Meg is more of a mezzo and she dances, so the roles themselves couldn't be more different as far as what they require from my skill set. But I was excited and that was one of the reasons I wanted to do it. Roles like Christine are awesome and wonderful, but they sort of "park and bark" and that's the extent of what's required. So I was excited to use my dancing background again. I grew up as a dancer and I don't get to use it as much anymore, so that was part of the appeal. In some ways they are similar, because it's still Andrew Lloyd Webber's music and he has a certain style, and his way of writing. So musically there are some things which feel sort of similar, but it's definitely a big departure and that's really what drew me to it in the first place.
BWW: Your character in this, Meg Giry, is a vaudeville performer, so that must bring its own kind of fun and challenge, being a performer within the show itself.
It's a real treat because it reminds me of why I fell in love with musical theatre in the first place. I grew up watching all the old movie musicals and this show is fun and it's flirtatious and it's kind of sassy, the kind of things that sometimes I don't associate with the world of Phantom. There isn't really that element in the original Phantom of the Opera, so to be able to see that in the sequel is kind of unexpected to the audience, but I think they enjoy it because it seems like a departure. It's lively and fun and it's nice to bring some lightness to a pretty dark world and a pretty dark story. It's fun to have those moments of laughter and playing with the audience.
BWW: Tell us a little about the show itself. Do you need to be familiar with the original to really enjoy and appreciate this show?
I think it helps but I don't think its necessary. We have plenty of people who come to see this show who don't have any history with Phantom and they follow the story perfectly well. I think it was in Andrew's - and the entire creative team's - interest to make a standalone piece that could be its own thing. There's definitely no confusion on the part of someone who hasn't seen the original, or doesn't know the original. That being said, if you do love the original and know it, there are so many beautiful little gems that are put throughout the orchestrations - that's kind of a nice treat for someone who really knows the score. I grew up obsessing over the original and I did the show for almost two years on Broadway and I still hear things in our score that I go, "Oh my gosh, that's that little quote from this part in the original!" He's the master. He's woven them all in in such a skillful way. If you know it you'll only get a richer experience. But you'll definitely be entertained and follow the story if you're not a fan of the original.
BWW: Tell us a little about the story.
It takes place ten years after the original ends. We start on Coney Island, and we find out that the Phantom has come to New York and has started a vaudeville troupe, or circus troupe if you will, with a bunch of different performers and Meg, who is the lead showgirl for the place. We get to see some of the performers, we get to see the world. We find out that I have come from Paris along with my mom, Madame Giry, and we have come to help create this thing. Basically we see the life that Meg and Madame Giry have established, and then we see Christine come to the United States for the first time to perform. She's now a huge opera sensation. She's gone from a shy opera singer just starting out to a huge diva and she's opening a new opera space for the first time. There's a lot of glamour surrounding her and with that comes some drama on the part of Meg, because Christine actually ends up performing in Meg's space, so instead of doing the opening she was supposed to do, the Phantom basically lures her into performing for him. Because of that, Meg has to deal with some jealousy and confusion. And it's not a glamorous life that she has, doing multiple shows a day. It's a neat way to look at their relationship. They were childhood best friends and they haven't seen each other in ten years. So that's where a lot of the drama comes from. Christine's arrival is where a lot of the conflict starts, and we see a little of her relationship with Raoul and the state of their marriage and a look at their son and how their family dynamic is playing out. I always say the first Phantom is romantic and there's this sense of new love and possibility. Now ten years later you're seeing a more nuanced and sadder look at what love can be, and what happens when you love someone for a long time, what happens when they're going through something really difficult. All the stuff that's a little more adult, really. It feels like it matures in a way that is really neat and I think that's what people maybe aren't expecting when they come, but it's what they respond to. It's a real look at it, and its not always pretty and it's not always romantic and it's not always easy to define, but that's the thematic throughline. At least the way that I see it.
BWW: The original has some iconic theatrical moments. Are there big set pieces in this as well?
Oh my gosh. The design is absolutely gorgeous. It's beautiful and it's a little bit creepy, a little bit spooky, because there's this everpresent feeling of being on Coney Island and what that was like in 1907. It's amazing. And there are still the beautiful costumes. Everyone wears amazing costumes. Christine has one dress in particular that is just jawdroppingly beautiful -- you're definitely getting your money's worth just from looking at it. Not to mention the orchestrations and the music. It's definitely a reason to come see it.
BWW: What has been the reaction from audiences?
People are jumping to their feet at the end. I honestly feel like these people are jumping up out of their seats. There's a visceral feeling of being moved by the show. It's a very emotional show and it ends in a very delicate, sad way and it really touches people. I don't think they're expecting that. And I think it exceeds those expectations wildly.
Love Never Dies runs June 12-17, 2018, at The Peace Center, 300 S. Main St., Greenville, SC. Tickets start at $35. For tickets and additional information call the box office at 864-467-3000 or visit peacecenter.org