I can totally see why those who love The Phantom of the Opera often aren’t keen on Love Never Dies and those who can take or leave POTO enjoy LND much more. These two productions couldn’t be further apart, in so many ways.
As I think about what I’ve just seen I can’t help but ponder over the intentions of this production. Obviously it was going to be impossible to top what they had achieved with POTO so it seems they went in a very different direction.
From the first few scenes there is a strong sense of colourful commercialisation, which definitely wasn’t present in POTO. The plot is more defined and it’s fast pace drives the show but there is a lack of character and relationship development which you are spoiled with during POTO. The songs are less epic and spine chilling but they are very pleasant to listen.
One of the beauties of POTO is the mystery and magic behind the Phantom. His lurking in the shadows isn’t as ominous and you see more of him which in this case is a bad thing! This story humanised him, making him boring rather than brooding, weak rather than unpredictable and unexciting rather than dramatic.
You’d think seeing him often and knowing more about him would make you connect further with the character but instead it just made him a bit of a pathetic protagonist. He lost his power and skill of manipulation, making him simply a man in a mask rather than the uncontrollable question mark we had got to know.
Other characters seem unfamiliar also, and even though ALW has described LND as a “stand alone piece” rather than a sequel, there are many elements that I am left scratching my head at…
The relationship and chemistry between the unconventional lovers is nowhere near as strong and striking as the previous production. The Phantom and Christine have been apart for a decade, so you’d think there would be some sort of boiling emotion when they are reunited but I didn’t get as much as a single bubble of excitement.
The plot is more obvious and better paced I’ll admit but I have a few questions… How has the Phantom ended up on Coney Island and running a theme park? I somehow can’t picture him wandering along Brooklyn Bridge in a ‘I Heart NY’ t-shirt. I also can’t understand why Madame Giry and Meg are still working with him with their given history! And finally are we meant to assume that Phantom and Christine actually slept together or that Gustav was created by some sort of immaculate conception? I thought their love was a little more complex than a one night stand!
All these, plus complete changes in character from Raoul, Phantom and others, make you feel like you aren’t watching the same characters or even the same world.
SPOILER SECTION: I think it’s very telling that the ending goes the way it does. I quite enjoyed the plot twist of Meg taking Gustav as it felt like it fit her character and was a good moment of tension to finish with… BUT… it was too little too late as the team suddenly realised that the plot wasn’t weighty enough (especially after POTO) so they decided to have the bullet randomly hit Christine?! It seems like a last minute attempt to tug on the heartstrings but at this point in the production it was game, set and match.
*END OF SPOILER SECTION*
The most outstanding element of the production is the scenery and lighting. It has capitalised on the setting of the circus and plays with this theme throughout. The stunning rotating set has had every inch of it thought through and indulged with the most ornate props and scenery. Money has clearly been no object for this production with the design team spoilt for choice.
The camera angles in this recording of the production in Melbourne capture incredible shots of the sights, in particular in the scene between Mr Y and Gustav (“The Beauty Underneath”) which remains imprinted on my brain.
When it comes to the score, it will never top the iconic POTO songs but I quite enjoyed a majority of the songs. I wouldn’t say you’ll leave the auditorium humming to yourself but I found the lyrics powerful and the melodies pleasant. Touching moments came from “Look with Your Heart” between Christine and Gustav, tenser moments from “Devil Take the Hindmost” Songs as Raoul and Phantom battle for paternity and comedic relief from Meg and her strip tease with “Bathing Beauty”.
Yes, they will never come close to rivaling the partnership of “The Phantom of the Opera” and “The Music of the Night”, but I don’t think that is a reason to think less of this score.
I know that this show’s early revisions was hit with a lot of backlash and it’s obvious that ALW and his team have attempted to salvage it by adding a zero to the budget, altering the plot and praying for the best, but it’ll take a whole lot more revision until it even comes close to POTO.
I didn’t hate watching it; it is without doubt visually impressive and I enjoyed the songs and the surface level entertainment side of things. It was a pleasant experience, but I wasn’t left buzzing or feeling any sort of emotion. It isn’t deep, complex or clever like POTO. It is shallow and skims the surface of the depths that theatre can reach.