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Disc Dish

May 30, 2012


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Blu-ray: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies

Filmed at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, Australia in September, 2011, the stage production Love Never Dies is composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s follow-up to his wildly popular musical The Phantom of the Opera.

Unlike its predecessor, Love did essentially “Die” after its disappointing year-and-a-half run in London’s West End, which was followed by a more positively received production in Melbourne. There are no immediate plans for the musical to be mounted in New York (where Phantom continues its reign as the longest-running show in Broadway history), so it’s very likely that this digital release will be the only way—at this point—for the public to view Webber’s latest, long-gestating spectacle.

Set in 1907, approximately ten years after the end of Phantom, Love Never Dies follows The Phantom (Ben Lewis) in his guise as the leader of baroque amusement park at New York’s Coney Island. Still obsessed with the singer Christine Daae (Anna O’Byrne), he manages to lure his “lost love” to New York to make her American debut on the Coney Island stage. Christine, her husband Raoul (Simon Gleeson) and their ten-year-old son Gustave arrive in NYC and it’s not too long before The Phantom’s obsession endangers his favorite singer, her family and her old Paris Opera friend Meg (Sharon Millerchip), who now works in The Phantom’s vaudeville show.

Love Never Dies’s large-scale production and performances are all fine, but it’s the material within that proves to be disappointing. While the grandness of the show, its sets, scenery and orchestrations cannot be denied, the characters, the songs they sing, and the story they tell are simply not as melodramatic or romantic or engaging as those in the original Phantom. There are some occasionally ripe musical swells in Webber’s score, but not enough of them, and they’re often undercut by Glenn Slater and Charles Hart’s not-so-great lyrics. (The particularly uninspired line “Love’s a curious thing, it often comes disguised/Look at love the wrong way, it goes unrecognized” is one example of this.) Love Never Dies may be great to look at, but clocking in at just over two hours, it’s difficult to sit through.

Visually, the Blu-ray captures the rich, often outlandish colors of the show’s sets, costumes and lighting designs. It has a very sumptuous, cinematic look and the captures most of the detail of the elaborate scenery and props. The audio presentation is appropriately big and, for the most part, clear, though the orchestrations occasionally overpower the vocal performances. But, overall, a solid delivery (and particularly effective when the audience applause erupts from the surrounding speakers).

The Blu-ray’s sole bonus feature is a 15-minute featurette about the mounting of the production. It contains comments from the principal cast and crew members as well as Webber, who offers that his original idea for the Phantom character is that he would be a mysterious Howard Hughes-like figure living in splendor—the bizarre, only-in-America “splendor” that one associates with the sideshow of Coney Island.


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