March 11, 2010
Link to actual article
The problem with sequels is they invariably dilute the element that made the original distinct. Whatever your feelings on The Phantom Of The Opera, it undeniably conjured up a weird, murderous world of madness and obsession.
Ten years on in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel, and Ramin Karimloo’s crazed, disfigured Phantom has become a respectable impresario in Coney Island to which he has lured Sierra Boggess’s Christine to sing one last song. As before, she must make a choice, between her husband Raoul and the Phantom, with whom it’s clear she is desperately in love. And here lies the problem – Love Never Dies is essentially a sentimental love story in which the psychological darkness of its predecessor has aged into hammy gothic kitsch.
The book, which Lloyd Webber co-wrote with Ben Elton and two others, lacks its own internal logic and the vengeful denouement feels entirely contrived. Moreover Lloyd Webber plays his retro cod schlock quite straight – the scene between the Phantom and Christine’s son Gustave (a standout Harry Child) with skeletons playing electric organs, wouldn’t look out of place in a German heavy metal pop video. This, combined with the show’s unapologetic melodrama, is tough to stomach – these days we’re used to our musicals being a little more knowing.
Still, Bob Crowley’s chameleonic design exploits the spectacle of turn-of-the-century Coney Island with some fabulous, phantasmagoric video projections, while the weighted, elegant score (which has faint echoes of the Phantom original) has moments of great tenderness. Yet throughout there’s the sense of atmosphere and emotions being harnessed rather than dramatised. This, like the illusory world it depicts, never makes its themes of love, loss, madness and redemption truly felt.