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Monday, July 2, 2012

Love Never Dies Review

I snatched up the Blu-Ray of Love Never Dies, the official unofficial sequel to the Phantom of the Opera.  The Phantom which I reviewed a few posts back is an old musical that gave a stunning performance in the Blu-Ray 25th anniversary celebration release.  It was based on a novel written by French writer Gaston Leroux.  I read the novel when I was little and never found it particularly exciting but still it served as source material for a marvellous show.

This sequel, Love Never Dies, was written by Andrew Llyod Webber the musical producer of the Phantom. So it's a musical sequel but not an official sequel as intended by the original author.

I was tentative about this.  I heard the soundtrack before watching the performance and felt the music underwhelming saved by the talents of the singers the awesome Ramin Karimloo and my musical idol the great   Sierra Boggess.  So watching this Blu-Ray was all about performance and production to me.

Sierra and Ramin

Story 2.5/5
The story takes place 10 years after the events of the Phantom of the Opera and we learn that Christine and Raoul are in a bit of a money crisis.  Raoul's gambling habit has left them with enormous debt.  Meanwhile the Phantom with the help of Mdm and Meg Giry have left Paris for New York where they have created an 8th wonder of the world called Phantasma am amusement park on Coney Island and the "reason to visit America".  In other words the Phantom is super wealthy and successful.

Despite his success the Phantom has been struggling with his music and is haunted by memories of Christine, his true love.  He lures Christine, Raoul and Christine's 10 year old son Gustave to New York and the events of the new musical unfold..

I was a bit worried about the story.  Raoul turned into a jerk over the 10 years while the Phantom became less pathetic.  In every scene the Phantom just overwhelms Raoul: genius vs gambler, rich vs bum, renaiisance man vs drunk.  The set up seems way to forced and convenient for us to sympathize with the Phantom.  It makes the decisions Christine makes seem so easy.

And Christine seems way to perfect.  She's the center of the universe in the play despite what seems to be a very limited role.

And the tragedies and twists were much too predictable.

Cast 4/5
I admit I have a huge bias for Ramin and Sierra, but since they already did a Blu-Ray for the Phantom 25th anniversary, it was nice to see different choices for this production.

Ben Lewis was a great phantom.  Very masculine and strong.  His voice was great and very pleasant to the ear.  Not overpowering, not underwhelming it was nice.  I didn't feel his tragedy or particularly intimidated or moved in any point of his performance but gives  a solid performance.

Ben Lewis

Anna O'Byrne is stunning.  She's gorgeous with pale skin and beautiful red lips.  Her voice is amazing.  But I didn't feel her acting, the performance itself, showed enough emotion.  No distress when she was distressed, no fear when her son was in peril.  Still a great musical star and I'll still follow what she's up to in the performing arts.

Music 3/5
The orchestra tried their best.  It was good.  Nothing exceptional but they tried to sweep you up in the moments where you needed sweeping.  The score itself was suffering from identity crisis..

In the original Phantom you can mark off scenes by their music.  Past the Point of no return -- that's the part with Don Juan..  Masquerade -- that's the part with the masquerade.  As I listen to the sound track of Love Never Dies it's hard to associate the scenes from the music (just the music).  Other than Love Never Dies itself all that comes to my mind are images of freak shows and vaudeville type dance scenes (which I don't like very much).  Maybe when I re-watch the Blu-Ray I will appreciate it more.

Mixed into this were bits of melodies from the Original Phantom.  For instance Little Lote, Twisted every way etc. It was meant to stir up memories of their youth, but it had a more negative effect making me compare the old Phatom with this Love Never Dies production.

Set/Production Value 4/5
Wow the sets were beautiful.  Big time set design that draws a lot from Cirque du Soleil.  The stage turns so one side gives one scene and as the actors walk as the stage turns they enter the next scene seamlessly.  It's amazing.  But it seemed small.  There were no large scale ballrooms like the Masquerade scene, or the long journey across the lake in the original Phantom.  The lavish sets seemed crowded and the number of performers seemed small.  This I felt confirmed in the ovation time when I realized how small the stage was and how few people were in the production.

Do I recommend it?  Well if you love musicals then yes.  By all means see it.  It's haunting enough that you will think of it after it's over.