February 17, 2010
Link to actual article
Love Never Dies and the curse of the Phantom menace
First preview cancelled, press night still unconfirmed ... is everything all right with Andrew Lloyd Webber's lavishly publicised sequel to The Phantom of the Opera?
There's nothing like creating an aura of mystique around a new musical, and Andrew Lloyd Webber is a past master. First came the idea to premiere his long-planned sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, on three continents simultaneously – in London, New York and Shanghai. That turned out to be hype, and by the time an official announcement was made last October, it had settled into the traditional route of opening in London first, with a Broadway premiere to follow soon after; Shanghai was replaced by Australia.
This week, the show is finally due to begin previews at London's Adelphi Theatre … or maybe it isn't. Confusion has replaced mystique: ticket holders have officially been told that the first preview, scheduled for Saturday, is cancelled – but also that they may be admitted, depending on how things are going. Nor is the press night fixed. Lloyd Webber's producer Andre Ptaszynski recently wrote to critics to suggest that the production might follow Legally Blonde's lead and invite them to previews ahead of the first night – but, then again, it might not. The producers won't be able to confirm what's going on until the first two or three previews have happened.
Not that this has stopped the publicity machine grinding into gear, and last week's Sunday Telegraph saw Lloyd Webber presiding over its Seven magazine as guest editor, which basically meant writing a foreword, granting a three-page interview and seeing six extra pages of editorial devoted to his show. He has already proved adept at using the BBC as a prime-time promotional tool for his productions of The Sound of Music and Joseph and the Amazing Techicolor Dreamcoat, and now he's got the national press in on the act, too.
The day before, the Independent's David Lister breathlessly told readers that Lloyd Webber had allowed him to hear his new musical "and be the first journalist to write about it" (Lister duly declared "the composer back on top form" and dubbed the score "one of the most dramatic he has written"). Meanwhile, critics have been sent a personally watermarked copy of the double CD, should we want to follow suit. Then there have been the taster previews of the big Phantom love ballad, performed at the press conference launch by Ramin Karimloo, and the title track, performed at the final South Bank Show awards by star Sierra Boggess last month.
Despite (or because of?) this blitz, some fans don't seem too impressed. A Facebook group called Love Must Die insists: "We feel strongly that Love Never Dies is a completely misguided venture that is a detriment to the story of the original The Phantom of the Opera novel and musical of the same name and that, contrary to the information being reported by the Really Useful Group and perpetuated by the ill-informed media, is not in the interest of nor desired by the story's many fans. Virtually everything about the show strikes us as illogical, irrational, offensive and frankly stupid."
Time will tell whether they're right.