Saturday, January 18, 2014

Love Never Dies....But Maybe it Should





How many of you are aware that there is a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera?  I had NO IDEA about this until recently.  If you haven't seen it, or plan on seeing it, I'm about to give the entire story away in this review, so you've been warned!


The following is from the Love Never Dies musical page on Wikipedia:

Act I

In a brief prelude, Madame Giry walks along an abandoned pier recalling Phantasma, Coney Island's 'City of Wonders' ("Prologue"). She is then confronted by Fleck, a freak who once worked with her there, who reminds her of 'the good old days' and blames her for 'what happened.' The audience is transported back in time through "The Coney Island Waltz."

It is now ten years after the events at the Paris Opera House, 
in 1907--admittedly a chronology inconsistent with the first show, and the setting is at Phantasma on Coney Island in New York. An excited group of vacationers arrive overwhelmed at everything that Phantasma has to offer, and speculate about its reclusive, masked owner - known only as Mr. Y ("Heaven by the Sea"). Meg Giry, Christine Daae's friend from the Opera, is now a headlining performer at Phantasma with Madame Giry, her mother and the Opera's ballet mistress, at her side.

As Meg prepares for her performance, she wonders what the boss will think and states she will be performing "Only for Him." She wins the crowd over with her performance of "Only for You," and learns afterward that Madame Giry has arranged for her to "meet" an important client.

In "The Aerie," it is confirmed that the Phantom is Mr. Y, the mysterious creator and owner of Phantasma. In a dark, private lair in a tower high above the park, he interacts with an automaton that resembles Christine. In spite of the ten years that have passed and his many successes, he still longs to be reunited with her ("Til I Hear You Sing"). Meg intrudes and presses the Phantom to give feedback on her performance, but he dismisses her as an annoyance.

Madame Giry is irritated that the Phantom is still longing to be with Christine after all the help she has given him over the years ("Giry Confronts the Phantom/Til I Hear You Sing - Reprise"). She reveals that she and Meg helped smuggle him out of Paris and to a ship departing from Calais, where he made his escape to America. Ignoring Giry, the Phantom summons Fleck, who appears with two other freaks, Squelch and Gangle. The Phantom has them send a letter to Christine inviting her to come and perform at Phantasma.




(Fleck, Squelch, and Gangle; the Phantoms "freaks")

Three months later, Christine, Raoul and their son, Gustave, arrive in New York to crowds of paparazzi ("Christine Disembarks"). It is revealed that Christine is no longer performing and that Raoul has spent much of their fortune on drinking and gambling. They are greeted by the freaks who arrive by a strange mechanical horse and carriage and take them to Coney Island ("Arrival of the Trio/Are You Ready to Begin?").

Raoul is angry at the way they have been greeted by the freaks and upsets Gustave by not playing with him ("What a Dreadful Town!"). In spite of Christine's pleas, Raoul leaves to go drinking as Christine tells Gustave to "Look With Your Heart" to try and help him understand his father’s behavior.

After Gustave leaves to go to bed, the Phantom enters and reveals that it was he who summoned her to sing at Phantasma. In "Beneath a Moonless Sky," the Phantom and Christine recall the night of passion they shared the day before her wedding. Early the next morning, Christine awoke prepared to abandon Raoul for the Phantom, but found that the Phantom had left her. He admits that he left because he was too afraid of being rejected by her again.

They recall that "Once Upon Another Time," they thought their love had a chance of succeeding, although current situations prevent that from happening. Gustave wakes up screaming from a nightmare and meets the Phantom for the first time as Mr. Y ("Mother Please, I'm Scared!"). The Phantom promises to show Gustave more of Phantasma the next day.




In the rehearsal studio for Phantasma, Meg unexpectedly reunites with Christine, and is surprised and jealous to learn she will be singing there. Raoul runs into Madame Giry and discovers it is the Phantom who has invited Christine to sing there ("Dear Old Friend"). Christine becomes concerned when Gustave goes missing. The freaks bring Gustave to the Aerie where he is greeted by the Phantom.

Gustave plays a haunting melody on the piano, which leads the Phantom to have a revelation that he could be Gustave's father ("Beautiful"). The Phantom questions Gustave about his feelings and musical abilities, finding that they are kindred spirits. He unmasks himself, believing Gustave will accept him ("The Beauty Underneath"). Gustave is horrified and screams.



Christine enters to comfort a terrified Gustave. When the Phantom presses her about Gustave, Christine confesses to the Phantom that Gustave is his son ("The Phantom Confronts Christine"). The Phantom declares that everything he owns will go to him. A furious Madame Giry overhears this and fears all of her work over the years for the Phantom has been for nothing.


Act II

Following the ("Entr'acte") we see Raoul sitting alone in a bar contemplating his relationship with Christine ("Why Does She Love Me?"). He is joined by Meg who suggests that he should leave that night with Christine and Gustave.

Raoul refuses, saying he is not afraid of the Phantom, who has since appeared behind the bar. The Phantom makes a bet with a drunken Raoul: if Christine sings Raoul must leave alone; if she doesn't then all their debts will be wiped away. He also makes Raoul question his paternity of Gustave ("Devil 

Take the Hindmost")

  

At the beach, it is the last day of the season and the holiday makers are enjoying the experience ("Heaven By The Sea - Reprise"). A balloon then lands on the beach and the freaks advertise that night's performance ("Ladies...Gents!/The Coney Island Waltz - Reprise"). That night, they present Meg, who performs a strip-tease routine about her choice of swimming costume ("Bathing Beauty").

Backstage, Madame Giry tells Meg that the Phantom had not been there to watch the performance, and it had all been for nothing ("Mother, Did You Watch?").

("Before the Performance"), Raoul asks Christine to reconsider her decision to sing, asks her to leave at once if she loves him. As Raoul leaves, the Phantom enters and tells Christine that Raoul knows his love is not enough and that she must sing for him once more.

Alone in her dressing room, Christine recalls the Paris Opera House where she had to make the difficult decision between Raoul and the Phantom. Backstage, Madame Giry, Raoul and the Phantom are wondering whether or not Christine will sing and who will win the bet.

As Christine prepares to perform, Meg makes a hurried exit ("Devil Take The Hindmost - Reprise"). Christine then walks on stage and performs an aria for the crowd ("Love Never Dies") while Raoul and 
the Phantom watch from the wings.

 .

The Phantom greets an overwhelmed Christine following her triumphant performance. Christine finds a letter from Raoul stating that he has left for good. Christine realizes that Gustave is missing and becomes worried. Fleck reveals she had discovered Meg's dressing room smashed up and seen her with a small figure. Madame Giry believes she knows where she has taken him.

On a pier, a distraught Meg is preparing to drown Gustave when she is confronted by the others. She holds up a gun to them so that the Phantom will listen as she reveals the truth: the resources that Madame Giry has afforded him all these years have mainly come from Meg being forced to work secretly as a prostitute to supporters of Phantasma. The Phantom tries to get the gun from her but in the confusion Meg accidentally shoots Christine.

The Phantom rushes to a mortally wounded Christine as Meg watches, horrified by what she has done. Christine reveals to Gustave that the Phantom is his father. Her final words tell the Phantom that her love for him will never die. They have one final kiss, and she dies in his arms. The Phantom hands the body of Christine to Raoul and he comforts Gustave who unmasks him as the curtain falls.


Love Never Dies Finale

The musical was not received well by critics or fans.  It opened in London in 2010.  There were plans for it to make its way to Broadway, but reviews were mixed to bad and it closed without ever making it there.

A revised version, with additional work from "Phantom" lyricist Charles Hart, book rewrites by Frederick Forsyth, and new staging by Simon Philips ("Priscilla Queen of the Desert"), opened in Melbourne, Australia, in 2011.  Lloyd Webber preferred it to the London edition and authorized it to be filmed for broadcast to cinemas worldwide.  This Australia performance is the one that I've shown clips of in this post.  While it features lovely tunes and impressive performances, "Love" lacks the bite, charm, and romanticism of Phantom of the Opera.

The song "Beauty Underneath" tries to be the catchy, rock opera song of the show, like the song "Phantom of the Opera" was in that musical.  Watching the song is difficult because everything going on around them is distracting.  I understand that Phantom runs a "freak" vaudeville show, but that doesn't mean I want to see a man with fingernails that go down to his ankles....even though I know they are fake.  

I completely enjoyed the song "Devil Take the Hindmost".  It's definitely my favorite song of the musical.  I LOVE the tango feel, even though it's a stretch to believe that Raoul would ever make a bet like that with the Phantom.

They tried to put suspense in, but there was never any doubt that Christine would take the stage and sing....duh.  And at first I was surprised to learn that she went back to him the night before she and Raoul were to be married.  At the end of most versions of The Phantom of the Opera, Christine is sad, but has no problem leaving the Phantom there.

There's no laughter in Love Never Dies, like there is in Phantom.  Carlotta and the theatre owners are greatly missed to bring that comedic part to life.  They showcase the freaks and vaudeville acts at Coney Island to attempt humor, but they are not fun to watch; I fast forward those songs when I watch this.

Overall, it's no Phantom of the Opera.  I did enjoy seeing an idea of where everyone was 10 years later.    


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