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NUNN ON ONE: THEATER Richard Koons and his act of 'Love'
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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The Phantom of the Opera musical was a phenomenon that spawned more than 12,000 performances. Now it has inspired a sequel called Love Never Dies. Original character Christine Daae is invited to perform at Phantasma in Coney Island. The Phantom is involved in bringing her there and drama ensues when he's discovered.

The legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber returns as composer, and is the writer of the book.

Out actor Richard Koons tackles the national tour as the character Squelch. A graduate of The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Koons studied vocal performance. Past credits include playing Edna in Hairspray, Old Deuteronomy in Cats, and Horton in Seussical.

Windy City Times: Tell our readers about Love Never Dies.

Richard Koons: The show has been through a few versions. This is the one that Simon Phillips directed. It is most like the Australian production that was videotaped. It has a few new things and is completely different than the CD, because that is from the 2010 London version.

WCT: Who is your character?

RK: His name is Squelch and he is part of a trio: Squelch, Fleck and Gangle. We are the minions for the phantom. It takes place 10 years in the future from where the first musical left off. There are characters from Phantom such as Madame Giry, Meg Giry, the Phantom, Raoul and Christine. You find out that Christine and Raoul have a son named Gustave.

At the end of Phantom, Meg comes down to find the mask and it ends. With this show we find out that Meg and Madame Giry have whisked the Phantom away, saved him from the mob in Paris, and brought him to New York. He has created the first side show in Coney Island. He can live a life he never had anywhere else. He has taken on the name Mr. Y. as in mystery. He uses the three of us to do his bidding. We show up in this amazing carriage to kidnap Christine to Coney Island.

The set designer gives everyone a feast for their eyes. It is really revenant because I just saw the movie The Greatest Showman. It is very much like that!

It is gorgeous but also dark and creepy. It's one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's most beautiful scores. It is a pleasure to listen to and sing every night.

WCT: You wear makeup?

RK: Yes, and they made me shave my head, too. We are in an off-kilter world even in our makeup. I have one very large eyebrow and one itty bitty one. I have one earring on one side and blue makeup on one side.

WCT: Are there any gay characters?

RK: We always tease the master of ceremonies, Stephen Petrovich, that he's like the character in Cabaret.

For Squelch they made him a high tenor, but he's the strongest man in the world. You would think his voice would be rough, but I'm singing in the stratosphere all the time. I'm not sure why his voice is that high compared to his physical aspect.

If I had to pick the character that is the closest to being gay, it would be Stephen's Gangle.

WCT: How is it traveling and having a family at the same time?

RK: My son Rhys is now 6 years old and lives with my husband, Russell, in New York. When my son was born he took a backseat to my career. Since my husband is a school teacher I just did concert singing during the school year and would only do Broadway shows during the summer. I went off and did that my first year with Cats. During his fifth year I was cast in Love Never Dies.

When I was growing up Phantom came out and it always meant something important to me. I couldn't pass up the opportunity and knew it would be hard for us. Thanks to FaceTime I talk to him every day. He likes to watch me put on my makeup.

I made sure he wasn't scared of this production and he wasn't. He enjoyed it and has seen the show several times. When we are in Boston it will be a car ride to visit him. I am never longer than 10 weeks without seeing him on the tour and usually it is only four weeks.

It can be hard, but I want him to know he can do and be whatever he wants. The best way is for him to see his parents thriving in what they love to do.

WCT: You have had so many costumes in shows, such as Edna in Hairspray. Do you like that part?

RK: If I had the choice I would only wear one costume. I just hate changing my clothes!

I have done some great character roles like Santa in Miracle on 34th Street and Edna in Hairspray. The costumes make your character.

The pants for this character make me look like I weight 60 more pounds than I do. They are hand painted. It's beautiful, but heavy. It is fun to dress up.

WCT: Is there any musical you wanted to be in but haven't?

RK: I am in the Phantom family, but I want to do Phantom of the Opera. If my career ended today at least I have been in this. How many people can say they opened a Webber show and stood next to him onstage? He came to Baltimore and worked with us for a few days. When he walked on the stage at curtain call you could see the emotion and tears in his eyes. The show means so much to him. It was a pleasure to do the show for him. He's been such a big part of my life growing up.

WCT: Were you able to speak to [Andrew Lloyd Webber] directly?

RK: Yes. He went out to dinner with us and we got time with him. He's writing his memoirs right now and I think it will be released in March. He wasn't going to make the opening in Detroit because of it, but he did make it after all and flew out for it. He spent the night with us again!

Love Never Dies haunts the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., on Feb. 14-Mar. 4. Visit for tickets and information .

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