We went to Her Majesty's Theatre to meet him. Karimloo's dressing room is as cinematic as it is theatrical — there are posters for "The Untouchables" and "Carlito's Way" on the walls. He is, however, very much a theatre star, and on his dressing room table are the usual clutch of first-night cards — his was on Oct. 6, when he joined the long-running hit The Phantom of the Opera.
Congratulations on joining The Phantom "Thanks! Actually, it was seeing The Phantom of the Opera as a child that got me into theatre in the first place. I was about 15, and it was my first live musical, and I was bowled over by it. I thought 'If this is what theatre's about, then I want to be part of it!'"
This was in Canada? "Yes, I'm Canadian. As you can see from the flag!" [There's a huge Canadian flag in his dressing room.]
How old are you now? "Twenty-five, so it's quite a journey in ten years!" Did you find it difficult to work in this country? "Getting work outside Canada can be an issue — it's very hard to get a green card to work on Broadway, for example. But my wife is British, so I was able to come over here and work."
Is she in show business too? "That was how we met. I worked for a while on cruise ships, and she auditioned me — she was assistant choreographer on the show I was hoping to join, and we sailed round the Caribbean together on it. Very romantic!"
You've been in several musicals since you got here? "Yes, including The Pirates of Penzance and Sunset Boulevard. I also played both Marius and Enjolras in Les Misérables in the West End."
Which role did you prefer? Marius, presumably? "No, actually I thought Enjolras offered more in the way of making your own mark on the character. With Marius there's rather less that you can do with the role. It was the resident director on Les Miz who suggested they see me for the part of Raoul in Phantom."
And now you're playing Raoul, Christine's aristocratic lover. "It's a very good role — and bigger than I'd realized when I auditioned for it. I've had a lot of voice coaching, so I sound like a Victorian aristocrat, and movement coaching, so I can hold myself like one, too. My agent giggled through most of the first act when he came to see it as I sounded so unlike my normal, Canadian, self — so I must have been doing it right!"
What about Cameron Mackintosh? "He came to the first night and loved it. It made my night to have him there, and to hear him say how much he liked it. We've got a very fresh cast who all work together well, and a great director, and I think the show has been given a real shot in the arm, so I hope we'll get plenty of Phantom regulars in to see it as well as people watching it for the first time.
It's a very romantic piece, as well as a strongly dramatic one. Are we meant to assume that Christine and Raoul live happily ever after? "Not necessarily! Although we see him taking her away in a rowing boat I'm not sure that they do live happily ever after. Raoul knows that, for all the love he can give her, he can never be to her what the Phantom was, so things may not have been that straightforward!"