Persian phantom signs for three films.Ramin Karimloo is Iranian-Canadian, but he has made his name singing on the stage in London, mostly famously as the Phantom of the Opera.
Right now, however, he is starting a concert tour of Britain. And he has signed up for three films, which might give him some recognition in the United States.
His focus last week was in putting together a set list of songs for his tour. "I'm not one of those artists who necessarily wants to do what's expected of them," he told The Western Mail of Wales. "Getting together the perfect set list can be daunting. But I think I've found a balance--there are some favorite theater songs, which I'll hopefully put a concert feel to, as well as some songs from the album, some folk songs and some songs I've written for future albums."
Ramin won over fans for his roles as Raoul and Phantom in "The Phantom Of The Opera," the Phantom in "Love Never Dies" and, most recently, Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables."
It was while he was starring in "Love Never Dies"--Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to Phantom--that he learned to play guitar and started writing his own music.
The father of his co-star, Sierra Boggess, is a guitar maker and made him a guitar for opening night.
"I would be stuck in make-up during 'Love Never Dies' for hours and between shows [on days with both matinee and evening performances] I couldn't take my make-up off but had two hours to kill," he explains.
"So I thought I'd learn to play the guitar. I really got into folk music and began writing songs."
He later landed a deal with Sony Music and has just launched his debut album, "Ramin," which seems to bemuse him. "I'm not a 20-year-old trying to be a pop star--I'm 33," he says with a touvh of aging.
The album features new songs such as "Coming Home" and "Eyes Of A Child" in addition to stage classics such as "Music Of The Night" (from "The Phantom Of The Opera") and "Til I Hear You Sing" (from "Love Never Dies").
Ramin was adamant that it shouldn't be an album of songs from musicals.
"I didn't want to do a theater album. I've got colleagues who've done a lot more than me in theatre. This album has developed me as a songwriter. I love being in musicals, but I didn't grow up with musical theatre."
Karimloo was born in Iran but reared in Canada. From an early age though, he wanted to become an actor.
"I was inspired by [Robert] De Niro and Daniel Day Lewis. I reluctantly went to see 'The Phantom Of The Opera' when I was 12 or 13 and was moved by it emotionally. I remember thinking how cool it would be to play the mysterious Phantom."
When he was in his 20s, he did just that.
"It was one of the best experiences of my life--to be playing the lead at a young age. I did the best I could with it and it totally opened doors for me."
But he's now trying to lay the Phantom to rest.
"After the 25th anniversary [last year], I felt it was time to say 'that's enough of Phantom' and to hang the music up," says Ramin, who lives in England with wife Amanda and their sons, seven-year-old Jaiden and four-year-old Hadley.
He next took over the title role of Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables."
As far as the future is concerned, Ramin has signed up to appear in three films.
"I don't specifically look for a film, music or a play. I either go for something that excites me or something that will stretch me in my craft. I've done musicals for 10 years solid now, so I've a hunger to try different avenues. But if a great musical role was offered to me, then great."
Karimloo was born in Tehran September 19, 1978, at the height of the civil unrest that toppled the Shah.
"All I was ever told is that we had to get out of there to save our lives," Karimloo said. "I'm only learning the story now of what happened. When we were growing up, we just accepted it without questions.
"But now, so many years later, my father can begin to talk about it. Man, I can't believe the hardships he and my mother had to go through to start a new life."
The Karimloo family spent three years in Italy before finally emigrating to Ontario province in Canada. As he grew up, Karimloo was being pressured "like any Iranian kid" to be a doctor or a lawyer. "But I wanted to be a hockey player, I was sure of it." That is, until he saw "The Phantom of the Opera" in Toronto.
But you don't get to play the Phantom as a teenager, so Karimloo recalled the advice of Colm Wilkinson, then playing the Phantom in Toronto: "Just sing with rock bands. That will teach you how to do it."
Karimloo went that route but soon tired of it. So he auditioned for a cruise ship line, lying about his age (he was 17), and spent two years singing on the seven seas while studying the Stanislavski and Strasberg acting methods in his cabin at night.
By the age of 20, he was understudying The Pirate King in "The Pirates of Penzance" at London's outdoor Regent Park Theater. That led to his briefly taking over the role of Joe Gillis in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Sunset Boulevard" at the age of 21.
After that, he spent some years in the London ensemble of "Les Miserables," but the ambitious young Karimloo was growing discontent.
"I told everyone if I didn't have a leading role in the West End [London's theater district] by the time I was 25, I'd quit and become a cop."
Two weeks before that birthday, he was cast as Raoul, a secondary role in "The Phantom of the Opera."
But he had his eye on the title role, which he told producer Cameron Macintosh, who raised an eyebrow and said, "You're a little young, aren't you?"
Still, he got an audition and won the role.