Theatre Review: Love Never Dies

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 1st June 2010.

“Love Never Dies”

Adelphi Theatre, London

Fans of the seminal 1986 musical, The Phantom of the Opera, were sent into a frenzy in 2007 with the announcement that Andrew Lloyd-Webber was planning a sequel. Reaction amongst fans was extremely divided. Many were of the opinion that a follow-up would tarnish the original’s place in theatre history, whilst others couldn’t wait to see what happens to the Phantom, Christine and Raoul after the rather inconclusive finale of the first musical (and later movie).

On 9th March this year, Love Never Dies opened in London. Featuring a new score by Lloyd-Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and book by Lloyd-Webber, Slater and Ben Elton (who has a chequered past with musicals, having written the script for hit We Will Rock You, and the failures Tonight’s The Night and The Beautiful Game), this production is the first ever musical sequel to be performed in the West End.

 Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to secure tickets to see the original cast at the Adelphi Theatre.

Without spoiling the story, Love Never Dies picks up ten years after the events of The Phantom of the Opera. Madame Giry and her daughter Meg have assisted the Phantom to relocate to Coney Island in New York where he runs the theatrical attraction known as Phantasma, under the alias of Mr Y. Still enchanted by his muse, Christine Daaé, the Phantom lures her to America along with her husband, Raoul, now bankrupt and an alcoholic, and their son, Gustave.

What is most striking about this new production is how far stage technology and special effects have evolved since the original show. The impressive (at the time) tricks of the 1986 musical have been replaced by spectacular projections onto fog, moving silhouettes of roller coasters, chandeliers made of animatronic heads and a horse and coach in which sideshow freaks appear out of thin air. The clever casting of a contortionist in the show also allowed a table to move across the stage, seemingly propelled only by two human legs.

The score itself features less memorable tunes than its predecessor, however the title track and the Phantom’s solos Til I Hear You Sing and The Beauty Underneath are standouts. The transition from the operatic style of Paris to vaudeville numbers at Coney Island may also grate with some.

Being a Tuesday night performance, I did not get to see original Christine Daaé, Sierra Boggess in action. Fortunately, the rest of the original cast was onstage that night and Ramin Karimloo (Phantom) was in very fine voice. Having played the Phantom for two years on the West End, Karimloo certainly has developed the perfect combination of gravitas and fragility to portray him again in Love Never Dies. Also impressive were Summer Strallen as Meg Giry and Liz Robertson as Madame Giry.

The Phantom of the Opera was a worldwide phenomenon, drawing crowds into theatres, many of whom had never seen a musical before. For musical theatre lovers and Phantom fans, Love Never Dies is worth the price of admission for its sumptuous staging, impressive special effects and remarkable performances. The mildly disappointing storyline and score are secondary.

Despite an impressive box office advance and sell out performances, Love Never Dies has received mixed reviews from the UK theatre critics. It should have a long and successful run as “Phans” clamour to get tickets. A show with such widespread brand awareness is virtually critic proof, however, I doubt it will ever be regarded as an equal to the original.

Love Never Dies is scheduled to arrive in Australia in 2011.

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