November 21, 2017
Matthew J. Palm
Link to actual article
Review: Old friends fall on hard times in dreary 'Love Never Dies'
Have you ever met up with old friends, say at a high-school reunion, and walked away from the encounter thinking, “Gosh, what the heck happened to them?”
No one would blame you if that’s your reaction to “Love Never Dies,” the sequel to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway juggernaut “The Phantom of the Opera.” The newer musical, which debuted in London in 2010, revisits the main characters of “Phantom” — apparently with the mission of destroying any affection theatergoers might have felt for them.
Dark and dreary, “Love Never Dies” takes the atmospheric mix of mystery and romance that made the original “Phantom” a phenomenon and buries it under melodrama that would barely pass muster in a 1940s Hollywood weeper or a 1970s daytime soap. The plot is both painful and tedious.
But the worst offense? There’s no one to root for in this parade of nastiness: Christine has been lying about an egregious betrayal for years — and while her vacillating was understandable as an ingenue, it’s tiresome in a long-married woman; Raoul, the white knight of the original, is revealed in his first onstage moments to be violent, a drunkard, a debtor, an uncaring father and a tyrannical husband. Charming.
As for the Phantom himself, his first big move is to threaten a child if he doesn’t get his way. Formerly a tortured and pitiable genius seeking a muse for his art, here he’s reduced to a spoiled brat on the verge of an epic tantrum.
Frankly, these characters deserve each other. But the audience deserves far better.
The flimsy story is set in New York’s Coney Island amusement park, circa 1907, which at least allows for a nifty set design of gaudy lights and steel beams that can simulate a roller coaster or a busy pier. Costumes, too, are beautiful — especially an opulent dress worn by Christine against a gorgeous backdrop of oversized peacock feathers.
As for Lloyd Webber’s music, given a full sound by the touring orchestra, there are bright spots amid the unrelenting reprises. The strongest song, the Phantom’s stirring anthem “’Til I Hear You Sing,” is right at the top of the show. “Beneath a Moonless Sky” conjures the lust and urgency of forbidden love. “Dear Old Friend” provides a rare spark of humor.
The actors — God bless them — do what they can. They thankfully have strong voices — and keep straight faces. In a musical this misguided, that alone could be considered an achievement.