About This Blog

I really like theatre, and I like writing and talking about it.

This blog is mostly about my relationship with theatre, the moments that make me fall in love with this art form, and the times when we don't always get along.

I'll be writing about things that I like, that I think are good and interesting and want to share. I will probably also write about things that I don't quite get, or think are wierd. I may also write about things that aren't theatre, strictly speaking, because it's my blog and I can.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Can We Fix This?


I saw the above article on Playbill.com recently, and decided now would probably be a good time to talk about Love Never Dies.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm a big fan of The Phantom of the Opera. I've been listening to the music since I was a kid, and I love it. I love lots of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals; Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, There's some great songs in Song & Dance/Tell Me on A Sunday and Aspects of Love. However, I can't say I've enjoyed his work over the past 10 or so years. The stuff he's doing know would have worked 20 years ago, but you need to keep with the times to be relevant as an artist. And his incredible hubris leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Just watch any of the BBC reality shows where ingenue wannabes compete for roles in West End musicals--he's sitting in a huge gold throne the entire time.

So, not knowing when to quit, Lloyd Webber is continuing to milk his favorite cash cow with a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, titled Love Never Dies. I was nervous about it when they first announced they were working on a sequel, because at the time it was supposedly going to be based on Frederick Forsyth's novel The Phantom of Manhattan. A well-meaning relative knew I was a fan of the original, and picked up a copy of the book for me. It was horrible. Parts of it were really goofy, there was some really contrived ret-cons (a nerd term meaning "retroactive continuity", i.e. changing stuff that already happened to suit the current plot), and huge sections were only slightly adapted from the first story.

(FAIR WARNING: Mild spoilers within)

Luckily, most of that was indeed thrown out. I was skeptical when reviews came out saying that they weren't using the story, because I was still hearing that it took place 10 years later on Coney Island, where the Phantom has used his skills as an architect and illusionist to build an amusement park, and Christine is now a famous opera singer who is coming to town with her husband Raoul and their young son, Gustave--which is exactly what happened in Forsyth's book. Luckily, it sounds like that's where the similarities end.

A big part of the plot of Love Never Dies are the jealousy issues between Raoul and the Phantom. Let's be honest, every woman wanted Christine to pick the Phantom. Raoul is rich and handsome and secure, but the Phantom is sexy, dangerous, and passionate. So Raoul is a bit dull, and the Phantom is a psychotic madman, but other than that they are both deserving of Christine's love; it's just that the Phantom needs her more, and you want to believe that her love can redeem him (as evidenced at the end of the original show--she kisses him, and he lets Raoul go free). But there's no tension unless you believe Christine could have chosen either of them.
So in my opinion, it's kind of cheating for Love Never Dies to turn Raoul into a complete heel. He is cruel to his son, he has a drinking problem and gambling debts. It's just too easy! Who would pick that guy?

And it sounds like that was one of the main problems with the production--the stakes weren't high enough, and it was lacking in tension (plus some of the plot being confusing when it wasn't being predictable). If the reviews are to be believed, they managed to clear up some of those issues, although it sounds like the book and pedestrian libretto are still the weakest part of the show.
The highest praise went to stars Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess for their impressive singing, and to the set and projection designs. Many critics also liked the music, although some felt the show tried to squeeze too much out of just a few melodies.

Speaking of which, let's watch some clips! Here's the official music video for "Til' I Hear You Sing". Karimloo sounds gorgeous, but this song feels a bit like someone said "We need another 'Music of the Night'", instead of saying "We need a good song for the Phantom that sets up his motivation".

Here's the best video I could find of Sierra Boggess singing the title song. Her interpretation is great, but the end sounds a little uncomfortable for her. It might just be the quality of the recording, though; I feel like I've heard her sing better elsewhere.

So, for a man who sits on a throne on TV shows, I have to give Lloyd Webber I still don't think I'm very impressed with it, but I'm glad they're concerned about whether the rest of the audience is.

Opening Night Reviews:

Reviews after the revisions:

No comments:

Post a Comment