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14.04.2010- Love Never Dies

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Love Never Dies, The Adelphi Theatre, 07.04.2010, 2.30pm.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much anticipated continuation of The Phantom of the Opera opened in London last month to a mixed critical reception. Many of the reviews I have read since the first night of Love Never Dies have been sceptical about whether Lloyd Webber’s latest musical can live up to the towering reputation of the original, which, at nearly twenty five years old stands alone as the singularly most successful piece of entertainment of all time. It is fair to say that Love Never Dies, as an extension of the Phantom mythology will inevitably be compared to its theatrical ancestor, but, in my opinion, and based upon what I saw last week, the pieces must be considered as separate entities in order to be fully appreciated.

Love Never Dies is set ten years subsequent to the events of The Phantom of the Opera, and the characters relocated to New York’s Coney Island, a dizzying world of circus sideshow and vaudeville hubbub. Innovative sets, designed by Bob Crowley and beautifully offset by Jon Driscoll’s breathtaking projections create an aesthetic which simultaneously encapsulates the graceful Art-Nouveau tastes of the period and the developing popular fascination with the bizarre. The vast space of the Adelphi, fully equipped for this production with a drum revolve is exploited to its full potential in order to create a realm which the Phantom himself appropriately describes as ‘illusions domain/Where music and beauty and artifice reign’. Personally, I found the ingenuity of the creative choices made in this production to be completely compelling, and, perhaps most pertinently of all, unlike anything I had ever seen attempted on stage before.

The stumbling block with the production for many critics in the reviews I have glanced over seems to have arisen from what they perceive to be an implausible storyline. Summarising the plot as briefly as possible, Christine Daaé, prodigy soprano taught by The Phantom in Paris, is invited (unknowingly) by him to sing at his Coney Island resort, Phantasma. She is now married to Raoul, her childhood sweetheart, has a son, ten year old Gustave, and accepts the offer to perform in order to pay off her husband’s gambling debts, acquired in a haze of alcohol-fuelled foolishness. As Christine is reunited with her teacher, revelations a plenty ensue, bets are hedged and the piece hurtles towards a tragic conclusion. What the critics seem to have forgotten in their consideration of the ‘weak’ book is the fact that, musical theatre, by its very nature is often fantastical and implausible. It is not, after all, realist drama which offers profound insights upon the human psychology or the world in which we live, but rather is a genre which is defined by the convention of the audience having to suspend its disbelief, otherwise it would cease to exist as soon as the first performer spontaneously began to sing. Ultimately, musical theatre has mass appeal because it is the ultimate in theatrical escapism; put in simple terms, the rules of real life don’t apply to the world of musicals, otherwise how could one explain productions based upon magical kingdoms called Oz and troupes of all-singing, all-dancing cats?

Plot and aesthetics aside, Love Never Dies also represents for Lloyd Webber a return to top form as a composer. Of course the songs he has newly created will undoubtedly be judged in comparison to pieces from the original such as Music of the Night and Masquerade, which have since become iconic within the musical theatre oeuvre. Of the Love Never Dies score, ‘Til I Hear You Sing and the title track are the most evocative of the original timbre, but new melodies such as The Beauty Underneath and Dear Old Friend are equally unforgettable. Perhaps the greatest demonstration of Lloyd Webber’s skill as a composer is demonstrated not in individual songs however, but when the score is considered as a whole. The juxtaposition of vaudeville ditties (such as Bathing Beauty and Heaven By The Sea), powerful duets (Devil Take the Hindmost, Once Upon Another Time) and soaring instrumentals (The Ayrie, The Coney Island Waltz) sets the Love Never Dies score apart in that it encapsulates so many sub-genres and operates extremely successfully outside of the operatic framework which defined its predecessor.

In summary, I found Love Never Dies an engaging and innovative piece, both on a technical and performance level. Standout performances from Tam Mutu (understudying a sadly indisposed Ramin Karimloo) as The Phantom, Sierra Boggess as Christine, Joseph Millson as Raoul and Summer Strallen as Meg in the lead roles are formative in driving the plot forward and each excelled in all of the musical numbers. Niamh Perry, Adam Pearce and Jami Reid-Quarrell are also commendable in the roles of Fleck, Squelch and Gangle respectively, the only major additions to the cast, who evoke the mystery and intrigue of Phantasma in triplicate. My advice is to ignore the critics; if you get the opportunity, go and see Love Never Dies leaving all of your preconceptions behind and draw your own conclusions about the piece. Theatre as a medium is, after all, defined by its ability to engage with the individual, and it is ultimately audiences, and not critics who determine the power of any performance.

Love Never Dies continues at The Adelphi Theatre, for more information visit www.loveneverdies.com.

(Image credit: telegraph.co.uk.)

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for a beautifully written and well-considered review. I love the CD (it's been running non-stop in my MP3 player for weeks now) and have tickets to see it in London in mid-August. I hope that Mr. Karimloo's illness is not serious and he will soon be back in the mask.

    ReplyDelete
  2. what a great review!

    I really want to see this

    xx

    www.bijousstyle.com

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