Archbishop Ryan grad pursues theater dream

Mayfair native Sean Thompson is starring in Love Never Dies, a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, which will be at the Academy of Music through Sunday.

Sean Thompson stars as “Raoul” in Love Never Dies. SOURCE: JOAN MARCUS

Sean Thompson’s love affair with theater began in his sophomore year at Archbishop Ryan when he tried out for the high school’s production of Jekyll & Hyde.

He was cast in the chorus and had only one solo line, but the experience set the Mayfair native on a path that would eventually lead to Broadway and a leading role in the national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to The Phantom of the Opera.

“From that point on, I was hooked,” said Thompson, recalling his first high school show.

Thompson, 32, stars as “Raoul” in Love Never Dies, which came to Academy of Music Oct. 2 and will be playing through Sunday, Oct. 7. The musical, which is making its premiere in Philadelphia, is set 10 years after The Phantom of the Opera and features yet another encounter between Christine Daae, Raoul and the Phantom, this time in New York City.

Raoul is an aristocrat and husband of Christine, the main character, who is now an international star. However, not all is well with their marriage, and Raoul begins drinking and gambling.

“I think he lacks identity, and I think he doesn’t quite know who he is,” Thompson said. “He’s just not in a good way when this show starts.”

Thompson said he had eight auditions for the role over the course of three to four months. The final one was in front of Lloyd Webber, one of the world’s most influential composers of musical theater.

SOURCE: JOAN MARCUS

At the time, Thompson was performing in a Broadway revival of Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. It was his first show on Broadway, but not his first time in Sunset Boulevard. Not long after graduating from Temple University, Thompson performed in a Washington, D.C. production of the musical, and he later starred in Sunset Boulevard at the Media Theater in Delaware County.

So when he heard the musical was returning to Broadway, Thompson, who was working at the Walnut Street Theater, jumped at the chance.

“It’s just one of those shows that kept circling into my life,” he said. “I knew that I had to audition for it. I knew I had to be in that room because you just have a hunch about things when you know something is a really good fit for you.”

The same music team that oversaw Sunset Boulevard was putting together the national tour of Love Never Dies, which began last September and will be running until December.

“I went in for it. I liked it,” Thompson said. “I ended up really focusing on the role of Raoul because it was really interesting to me. He’s much more flawed and much more human, I think, than he is in the original show, The Phantom of the Opera. Something about that really pulled me toward him.”

Since the tour started, Thompson has been living on the road, with most of his belongings in a storage unit. It’s been interesting to travel all over the country, he said.

“It’s been pretty eye-opening,” Thompson said. “As a Philly boy, I kind of grew up thinking you just kind of stayed in Philly, and that’s just what you did.”

Now, Thompson’s back in Philly. On Sunday, he sang God Bless America during the final Phillies game of the season, and family and friends will be heading to the Academy of Music all week for the show.

“I’ve got a whole schedule on my phone now for each day just so I know when people are coming,” he said. “I have a big, old, Irish-Catholic family, so they’ll all be there.”

Tickets for Love Never Dies start at $20 and can be purchased online, by calling 215–893–1999 or by visiting the Kimmel Center Box Office. For more information, go to www.kimmelcenter.org ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com