When Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway on Oct. 9, 1986, no one could have predicted that it would become the longest-running musical of all time on the Great White Way, with more than 12,600 performances -- and it still is going strong more than 30 years later.
So popular is the show, that Lord Webber wrote a sequel of sorts, set 10 years later. Unlike Phantom, Love Never Dies is not based on Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, although some of the characters are. Instead, it is based broadly on the 1999 novel The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth. In Love Never Dies, Christine Daaé, who was terrorized by the phantom at the Paris opera, is invited to make her American singing debut in New York. There, she is lured to perform at the city's summer resort, Coney Island. She doesn't realize it is the phantom who calls her to Coney Island, which hasn't been an island in more than 100 years.
Love Never Dies was a hit in Australia and New Zealand. Writing in The Australian, critic Chris Boyd said, "The best thing Lloyd Webber has written in the quarter century since The Phantom of the Opera."
Love Never Dies opened in London in 2010. Now, the American tour is coming to Houston, with a 2001 graduate of A&M Consolidated High School in the cast.
Tyler Donahue is in the show's ensemble and also understudies the role of Gangle, a Coney Island freak show performer.
What is it about theater that appeals to him?
"It's a visceral experience for me. Luckily my mother brought me to local theaters growing up, and it's been something necessary in my life ever since.
"I've seen hundreds of productions, and the thrill of the lights going dim before the performance never gets old," Donahue said.
"As far as being on the other side of the footlights, it's the same magic but magnified exponentially. I remember the feeling I have when I'm in the audience, and I love being able to create that for our audiences every night across the nation. There's no substitute for live theater as the connection between the public and the stage is so direct."
Donahue's family moved to College Station in 1996 and Donahue attended seventh grade there before the family moved again. The family returned in 2000 and Donahue finishd his last two years of high school at A&M Consolidated, graduating in 2001.
He said he didn't perform in theater growing up, although he took a few acting classes in elementary school. And, he did his first musical with The Theatre Company, then know by its original name 'magination Station. He was in the children's chorus of Camelot "under the direction of the late and great Randy Wilson."
After high school, Donahue headed to Denton to attend the University of North Texas, where he started performing again after his freshman year. "I began studying musical theatre until the department canceled the degree going into my senior year.
"Since I had a minor in Spanish already I decided to finish with my BA in Spanish with a minor in German and subsequently got my Master's in Spanish from the same university."
Donahue said, "Since my degree plan was canceled early and the university only offered a few performing opportunities each year, I decided to audition at local community and regional theaters.
"I was lucky enough to perform at theaters such as Denton Community Theatre and Music Theatre of Denton and even did a couple of shows again at the Theatre Company of BCS before starting professional gigs.
"I then went on to work with Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, Lyric Stage, WaterTower Theatre and Uptown Players."
His professional life then took a turn that leads to his performances in Houston.
"After I graduated from college I moved to Spain for 3 years before auditioning for the German production of Love Never Dies," Donahue said.
"I did the German production in Hamburg for a year starting in the fall of 2015. I did about 375 performances there.
"I joined the North American tour at its beginning in the fall of 2017. We've been on the road now for 10 months. We're currently booked through early December of this year."
This is Donahue's first national tour and his first show as a member of Actor's Equity Association, the professional actors' union.
"It's been an eye-opener. We have tour stops lasting from one to three weeks. Getting used to each theater just long enough to do a week of performances is stimulating and tiring at the same time."
He said, "It still blows my mind that on most Tuesdays we arrive at the new theater around 5 p.m. and start our show, in an unknown space, with an unknown local crew, at 7:30."
Asked if the Love Never Dies company members get to see much of the cities they visit, Donahue said, "We try our hardest to see as much of each city as possible. The length of our run and our hotel's proximity to the center of the city is a huge variable."
Does he get back to College Station much? "I sadly don't have much of a chance to get back very often. Luckily my brother has recently moved back so College Station so I will be visiting much more."
After months in the ensemble, Donahue got to step into the role of Gangl temporarily.
"I finally got to play the role of Gangle at the beginning of June of this year. It was an exhilarating experience but very odd as I had done a completely different track for over 600 performances. Luckily our creative team and stage management/dance captain teams have prepared us well."
As for the future, Donahue said, "I have no specific plans yet. The most inconsistent part of an actor's life is knowing what comes next. Unless we're lucky enough to be in a long-running production, we are constantly looking for the next job."
If you want to catch Tyler Donahue's performance, Love Never Dies will be at the Hobby Center from July 17 through July 22. Tickets start at $35 and are available at www.thehobbyceter.org.
• Tuesday -- Jack London's Call of the Wild, classic storytelling with projected illustrations, 6 p.m., Dr. W.W. O'Donnell Performing Arts Center on the Blinn-Brenham campus, $5 to $20, www.blinn.edu/boxoffice.
• Friday -- KEOS community radio presents The John Evans Band with special guests Magic Girl and Emily Herring & The Farm to Market Band, 7:30 p.m., Ice House, 800 n. Main St. in Downtown Bryan.
• July 22 -- Preview Party of the 2018-2019 season, The Theatre Company behind JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in Bryan's Tejas Center, 7 p.m. Be the first to learn what the new season brings, purchase season tickets and sign up to sponsor all or part of a show. Free (theatrecompany.com)
• July 23 and 24 -- Open auditions for A Southern Fried Murder, Navasota Theatre Alliance, 104 W. Washington Ave. in downtown Navasota, 6:45 p.m. Performances will be Sept. 28 through Oct. 14. (navasotatheatre.org)
• Aug. 9 -- Sleeping Beauty, classic storytelling with projected illustrations, 10 a.m., Dr. W.W. O'Donnell Performing Arts Center on the Blinn-Brenham campus, $5 to $20, www.blinn.edu/boxoffice.
• Aug. 9 through 25 -- Ben Hecht's and Charles MacArthur's Twentieth Century, StageCenter, located at 201-B W. 26th St. in Downtown Bryan, above Mr. G's Pizza. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. This will be the last show in the hard-to-get-to current location! Tickets $10 to $15 at www.stagecenter.net or at the door.
• Through Sept. 8 -- Response: Paired works by TAMU College of Architecture artists and their professors, the Reynolds Gallery on the second floor of the Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M, open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.free.
• Every Sunday -- Open mics and poetry slams sponsored by Mic Check Poetry, 8:30 p.m. Revolution Café in Downtown Bryan, (miccheckpoetry.com)
Items for Arts Watch should be emailed to email@example.com. Deadline is noon Tuesday before the weekend you want it to run.