CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — 13-year-old Casey Lyons can’t contain how excited he is to be back home in Chicago.
“I love Chicago. I’m so happy to be back with my family,” he said.
For the last four months, he’s been on the road touring as a theater star, but before that, he was a 7th grader at School of St. Mary in Lake Forest.
“I joined the school choir a couple of years ago. From that choir, I did a production of ‘Oliver,’ then from that I did a drama camp. I knew right away I wanted to be in theater,” Lyons said.
Soon enough, he was appearing in productions at the Mercury Theater, the Lyric Opera and Drury Lane. Now, he’s on stage with the touring company of “Love Never Dies,” the sequel to the iconic “The Phantom of the Opera.”
“I saw the original Phantom with my mom and loved it. When I saw that ‘Love Never Dies’ was coming I knew I wanted to audition — and I got the call back,” he said, shaking his head, admitting the experience has been pretty surreal thus far.
“I didn’t have to convince my parents. They’ve been so supportive. Once we got the part, I was ecstatic, they were ecstatic for me. I knew we’d do this because it’s an Andrew Lloyd Webber show, you know what I mean, it’s pretty cool,” he laughed.
Lyons even meet the legendary composer last year.
“It was crazy. When I first met him, I wasn’t really sure what I should do and I went up to him. I thought he was going in for a hug, but I wasn’t sure,” he laughed. “So I hugged him anyway. It was really awesome to meet him. His music is amazing. He’s iconic.”
His co-star Karen Mason plays Madame Giry and grew up in Arlington Heights.
“It’s so good to be home, isn’t it good to be home, Casey?” she said. “You feel a bit more secure and settled. My mom is here, so I’m happy to be performing here for the next couple of weeks.”
The Phantom sequel takes place ten years after the musical left off.
“It’s a beautiful show. It’s very different because it’s very visually very full. I think the Phantom of the Opera left a lot of space in between for the relationships of the people,” Mason said. “It’s very fast moving, it’s very visual, the addition of Gustave, the addition of a son. The characters have had ten years in between, so a lot has happened since the story left off.”
Lyons is one of six kids. He’s spending his 8th grade on the road — and his dad travels with him.
“My dad actually was allowed to take a year off of teaching to come with me on the road, which was incredible because I really wanted to do this and my parents knew that,” Lyons said. “He’s a history teacher so he goes out into the cities while I’m in school and finds little fun things to do in new cities.”
“These young actors are amazing. They have so much joy, energy and resilience. When the rest of us who are older are tired, we look at those sweet faces and just want to be part of it,” Mason added.
Lyons is tutored on the road but will return to Lake Forest next year. He’ll tour with the company through April and will finish 8th grade in home school. In the fall, however, he’ll be a freshmen at Loyola Academy.
“I miss school and my friends, but I’ve loved this so much. I’ve learned so much, I can’t even begin — I’ve loved every minute of this experience.”
His dream role?
“I’ve always wanted to be in ‘Newsies,’ and any role in ‘Bye, Bye Birdie,'” he laughed.
“Love Never Dies” is at the Cadillac Palace Theater until March 4th.
“I am super excited for everybody to come. It’s a dream come true to perform at the Cadillac. I’ve got all the Chicago fan base, I guess,” he laughed.