July 18, 2018
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LOVE NEVER DIES? Well, actually, it does.
Love for “Phantom of the Opera.” Love for Andrew Lloyd Webber. Love for sequels. Love for going to the theater. They’re each compromised by this musical, running at the Hobby Center through Sunday.
The torrid production history of this sequel suggests it’s no longer the cynical cash grab it first appeared to be but rather a blinded-by-passion project from the famed composer of “Phantom” and “Cats,” with lyrics by Glenn Slater.
But look at what they’ve done. How could they?
This musical is weepy, unironic and impossible to believe. There isn’t a single relatable character in it, nor any moment of true feeling, though the very loud strings and horns and very high vocal notes try to suggest otherwise. The musical’s faux-emotion is so agonizingly artificial you find yourself questioning the appeal to the original “Phantom.”
Webber’s 1986 musical was also this melodramatic and macabre. Its songs also sounded like self-serious opera and it also sported a gothic, mist-ladden art design without a sense of subtlety. So why did “Phantom” nevertheless feel so magical while “Love Never Dies” remains as appealing as screechy experimental jazz?
There’s something missing, after all, about the deformed Phantom (Bronson Norris Murphy) returning to haunt his beloved opera singer Christine (Meghan Picerno) ten years after the events of the original and forming a stomach-churningly creepy relationship with her son, Gustave (a brilliant, show-stealing Jake Heston Miller).
The actual story, which also includes “Phantom’s” Raoul (Sean Thompson) and Meg (Mary Michael Patterson), isn’t worth the space to recount. The singing is so overdone and the lyrics so listless that it’s difficult to follow what the musical is trying to present scene to scene.
The singers and the band did a good job. But combined with the lavish, unfocused art design and a story that seems like it’s parodying bad opera, all elements of the show become overbearing. Nay, unbearable. Even if the musical somehow ends up on Broadway, it’s best to strike this one from the Webber canon.