Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies opened on Monday, 22 February 2010 at London’s Adelphi Theatre to a packed house full of excited theatregoers and Andrew Lloyd Webber himself. The audience was all a buzz with anticipation. It seems that a lot of time had passed since this new show was announced formally at the press launch on 8 October 2009 at London’s Her Majesty’s Theatre but it is here now and is a must see! The world premiere performance of Love Never Dies is scheduled for 9 March 2010.
It is unimaginable all the people required to make a production like this but a thank you goes out to all involved for making such a remarkable and history-making musical. Bravo. Andrew Lloyd Webber must be very proud seeing this idea finally come to life.
It opens on the pier at Coney Island on a dreary, cold, moonlit night with Madame Giry (played by Liz Robertson) reminiscing of Coney Island in its day. The sound effects complimented the set with seagulls and the wind blowing. Even the moon turned into a ferris wheel – how imaginative. The visual effects were stunning as screens and projections enhanced / portrayed what she was thinking about. The tall man, acrobats, fire baton performer, trapeze artists and the circus acts were terrific and their costumes authentic looking. This is just the beginning as it only gets better.
Before I go further into the story, I must comment on the fabulous music written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and conducted by Simon Lee. It intensified and supported what was being performed by the talented actors. Be prepared to get shivers when you hear The Phantom (passionately and perfectly played by Ramin Karimloo) sing ‘Til I Hear You Sing. All the songs are special but my three favorite are ‘Til I Hear You Sing, Look with Your Heart, and Love Never Dies.
The wonderful actors are commended on delivering such convincing performances. A list of the main characters follows but it is not to disregard the ensemble who all add to a successful show.
The Phantom is absolutely perfectly played by the talented Ramin Karimloo. The beautiful Sierra Bogges makes her West end debut playing Christine Daae. Christine’s husband, Raoul, is played by Joseph Millson. As mentioned above, Madam Giry (manager) is played by Liz Robertson and her daughter (and performer), Meg Giry is played by Summer Strallen. The Phantom’s devoted trio Fleck, Squelch, and Gangle were played by Niamh Perry, Adam Pearce, and Jami Reid-Quarrel. And last, but not least… Christine’s son, Gustave (the only new character) is played by a multitude of children but on this night, the character was wonderfully played by Harry Child who sang with a pure voice.
I must reiterate Ramin Karimloo plays such a passionate character. You can feel it in his songs, you can see it in his actions. He is absolutely brilliant. Sierra Boggess is beautiful and delicate with a softer voice. All of the actors are talented in their own right, of course. It is easy to see why everyone got a standing ovation.
This may be a continuation of the most famous love story but it is a separate story all it’s own. Taking place 10 years after the infamous Paris Opera House, it offers one surprise after another. The Phantom is a Man in his own right having created a mysterious and intriguing world on Coney Island, his Phantasma. He sends for Christine to perform there. Due to monetary problems, Christine accepts and brings her husband and son with her, no one realizing who Mr Y is. Her husband seems like a pompous jerk who complains about everything but her child seems to share her qualities and is kind and innocent. Just when they think no one is there to meet them at the dock, a ‘glass’ horse and a seemingly empty carriage with a glass skeleton driver pulls up. The door opens and The Phantom’s Devoted Trio get out to greet them and take them to their master. The visual imagery projected was terrific as it showed ‘the carriage’ travelling over a bridge and a map showing where they were going from and travelling to. The combination of projection, the actual scenery/stage set, and live actors complimented one another and helped to portray the story.
My first opinion of Raoul is confirmed by the way he treats his son and talks to his wife soon after they arrive at the Hotel. He does nothing but complain and his drinking problem evident (which is added to by the gambling problem referred to more than once). Their son, Gustave, has a pure voice to match his pure heart and it is easy to see that Christine loves him dearly. It’s even apparent that she loves her husband and is devoted to him though one wonders why. Raoul leaves for ‘fresh air’ (at the local bar) and Gustave goes to bed after his mother comforts him when he questions if his father loves him. Then Christine, left alone, plays the musical toy that was given to her son and recognizes the music. She is standing there obviously feeling a presence as The Phantom enters from the balcony. They sing the ‘why’ and ‘what if’ game. The love, history, and attraction is so transparent but she remains the dutiful wife. By the way, the detail in the hotel room, particularly the door / balcony was splendid. Gustave awakens from a nightmare and meets his mother’s ‘friend’, Mr Y (the man who brought them there).
The next day, Christine and Gustave go backstage at Phantasma for business-related reasons when who should she run into but Meg Giry. They are joined by Raoul and Madame Giry where they have a surprise reunion. As they sing, Dear Old Friend, it is apparent that it is an awkward reunion and not a welcomed one especially for Meg and Madam Giry. This is when Raoul finds out who the boss is and he is not pleased about the news.
The Phantom calls for Gustave and his devoted trio brings the boy to his room. The boy is intrigued with all the inventions / gadgets (like the walking skeleton with lady’s legs) which pushes a table across the stage). He also plays the piano for The Phantom. The Phantom marvels at his musical talent and enjoys that Gustave is at home there. There is some important news that is revealed before the intermission and not something that makes everyone happy.
After the intermission, the Orchestra plays Entr’acte, a beautiful introduction to Part II. The rest of the scenes are as good as the first half. There are humorous parts throughout the musical… one being in the bar when The Phantom (pretending to be a bartender) reveals himself to Raoul. That was a good scene between the two men in Christine’s life. I will say that Christine obviously will have to make a choice but I won’t say any more. I don’t want to spoil anything so will just continue that it is full of intrigue, surprise, laughter, tears, and an undying love. The ending was very unexpected but again I can’t divulge more because I want you to go and enjoy it. I want you to be surprised and moved. Whether you’re a hopeless romantic or a sceptic of love or whether you just want to see how the story continues… you’ll want to see Love Never Dies. Go, take it in, feel it, and enjoy!
S P O I L E R A L E R T
If you want to know more, please read on… if not, PLEASE READ NO FURTHER!!!
The Phantom figures out before intermission that Gustave is his son (which I also figured out so may not be a surprise to you). At the altercation at the bar, the men make an agreement… if Christine performs that evening, Raoul will leave. If she does not perform, The Phantom will let her be and will pay all of Raoul’s debts. It is touch and go what she will do as she is almost pulled in by Raoul’s words. Her love for The Phantom though is too strong and at the last minute while on the stage, she starts to sing. She sings Love Never Dies… Raoul surprisingly honors the deal made or maybe just realizes he has no chance and leaves. She has chosen her true love. Just when you delightedly think there will be a happy-ever-after ending… there is more – Meg has taken Gustave. She is saddened by the realization that her boss loves another and feels used for all the years she gave to him. She is beside herself with grief. After a chase / search on the streets of Coney Island, they are found on the pier. Gustave is scared. Meg lets him go and he flees to the protective arms of his mother. Meg then pulls out a gun… The Phantom’s gun and points it at him while The Phantom and her mother try to talk her out of doing anything stupid or dangerous. She then turns the gun to herself when The Phantom talks her (or sings her) out of doing any self-harm… you think everything is fine until he accidentally calls her Christine at the end. That pushes her over the edge and she almost unknowingly fires the gun at Christine’s direction. Yes, Christine is shot to the dismay of all, even her shooter whom she forgives before she dies. She also reveals to Gustave who his father is and helps him accept it. The Phantom and Christine share a love-filled, emotional kiss and embrace before she tragically dies. The scene ends with Gustave removing his father’s mask and touching his face – a form of acceptance and a moving moment between father and son indicating that they will be okay.
by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)