Love Never Dies: Phantom of the Opera's sequel review

3/09/2013 07:49:00 PM

When I heard about the Phantom's sequel for the first time, my mind was filled with the question: should I watch it? Or should I leave the story just like how they ended in Phantom? Even though they have a hanging end. But that's one of the reasons why the musical is memorable.

The Phantom of the Opera is now the longest-running show ever on Broadway, but Love Never Dies never even made it after a disastrous West End run. The London production opening in 2010 received mostly negative reviews. It's not about the cast, but it's all about the failed narrative and unmemorable songs.

So, I decided to watch the filmed version of a reworked production from Melbourne, Australia (which was shown in movie theaters across America). Based on what I watched, there's no reason this sequel shouldn't find the admiration it deserves.

When I read many critics of the musical, I began to despair of seeing Love Never Dies. But at the end, I gave it a shot, and it made me realize how I missed seeing the Phantom. I loved the first musical so much (and Ramin and Sierra in the 25th anniversary). However, I couldn't say the same about the sequel.

The plot is about 10 years after the original Phantom. It has the Phantom (Ben Lewis) is actually hiding beneath Coney Island and having a theme park filled with music and thrill rides. He still luring Christine (Anna O'Byrne) to his side to obtain new inspiration from her. And then Christine came to America to perform on the opening theater in Manhattan. But her ten years son, Gustave wanted to go to Coney Island to learn how to swim (what a coincidence). And Christine and Phantom meet again after Christine believe he has been dead all these years, which also revealed a secret about the past ten years.

I enjoy the sets very much. Love Never Dies’ Australian production has the most magnificent sets in existence with its recreation of 1905 Coney Island in the far side of Atlantic, but it’s doubtful any of its numbers will ever be more or as powerful as “The Music of the Night” or “All I Ask of You.”. However, some of the numbers became classic blockbuster songs, like "Til' I Hear You Sing", one of my favorite (but not as powerful as Music of the Night), and "Love Never Dies".

A bigger problem is the unsatisfying story. Andrew Lloyd Webber seemed to remodel the characters to be a villain. Like Raoul became a drunkard and gambler, very different from the first time we saw him. Meg and Madame Giry became the pettiest character. And that's one of the reasons I couldn't love this show as much as TPOTO.

Overall, I can see the revised Melbourne production was better-received. I adore the fascinating cinematic style which the style director, Simon Philips brought to it. With the cameras swooping in around the actors in rapidly edited sequences. It is the closest I’ve ever seen to a live performance translated into a cinematic experience. And the costume designer did a great job as well. Gabriela Tylesova made hundreds of marvelous costumes for the show.

However, in the end, the most intriguing part of Love Never Dies is not for its story, characters or numbers, but for what it could reflect for the future of musicals in the age of new media.

(This is the Australian production that's on the film and DVD. The London production is sung by Ramin Karimloo, you can watch the official video music on youtube)

So, comment below about your thoughts on this show, I would like to hear what your opinion is :)

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