Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Burning Questions: What's happening in LND?

It's seems that the tracklisting for LND which appeared earlier on broadwayworld.com has been removed. Well - if you've read it, you'll already know that we'renot much the wiser for having read it. The song titles are mostly inconclusive regarding the plot because we simply do not know who will be singing them, and to whom. Therefore, the wild plot guessing continues :)

One of the most burning questions is of course: who will die? Will anyone die at all? Now, SPOILER ALERT (if you haven't read the Phantom of Manhattan and you actually plan on doing that in the near future. I wouldn't, if I were you :) So - you've been warned! In PoM, Christine is the one who dies, while Erik and Raoul live. I have my doubts though that this will be the outcome of Love Never Dies. Actually, my money's on Erik dying(if anyone at all). Why? Several reasons:

1. There are three well-known versions of Phantom of the Opera (Leroux, Kay and Webber), and Erik dies in two of them while Christine and Raoul live. Now, you might argue that LND is more a spin-off, and the ending of the actual story taking place in Paris is no longer relevant. But the overall point is: Erik cannot live without his Christine (as he puts it himself in Leroux: he is dying of a broken heart) and therefore, the original PoM ending doesn't make much sense from a character point of view.

2. Raoul cannot possibly die - his old self is actually in both the musical and the movie's first scene. If he died, the Phantomverse would probably turn into a black hole and explode from sudden logic deprivation. Yet the love triangle somehow has to be resolved. Now, one might say that having Raoul and Christine survive while Erik dies wouldn't actually be significantly different from the original...

3.Christine, according to the movie, dies in 1917. Simply a typing error on her tombstone? Doubtful... But then dates are completely messed up already, so - it might be a possibility :)

As you can see, it's almost impossible to make more than simply guesses at the plot (and a portion of wishful thinking is involved as well :) What I'm not doubting is that this one is going to be about Erik and Christine. It was already clear in the movie that it was centered more around the relationship between those two. Less fear, more fascination. And that's actually what add some tragedy to the original story. If you think that Christine feels nothing more than a kind of admiration, fear and hate for Erik, then this whole story is kind of pointless (in my view). But, if Christine does indeed love Erik, but goes with Raoul instead, there's a whole different level of drama involved there. Note how at the end of PotO, she doesn't actually "choose" Raoul? She chooses to kiss Erik. Only then, Erik practially sends her away with Raoul. The movie script is also quite explicit in stating that Christine looks back at him until he disappears from view and seems to be singing for him actually. Poor Erik, poor Raoul, poor Christine. Everyone makes choices, but they do not make them happy. Erik pines for Christine, Christine pines for Erik, and Raoul is unhappy but loves Christine. Erik and Christine share something that Raould simply cannot be a part of, which is expressed through music. I just hope that LND will not ruin Raoul's character: he is supposed to be an alcoholic, but he cannot be turned into a bad person. One of the charms of the original story is that there is no real villain - I feel sorry for all of them and I cannot condemn any of the three for what they did. I'm not bitchslapping Christine, bashing Raoul or vilefying Erik. All three are essential to the story, and this must be carried over to LND.

Oh and please DON'T make Mme Giry a villain. It just doesn't fit!

So, enough of my random thoughts on LND. More to come!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Love Never Dies press release



I've eagerly been waiting to watch the press launch and hear the first song from Love Never Dies, and - what can I say? It's exceeding even my wildest expectations! When I listened to it for the first time, I couldn't quite catch the tune (same as with original "Phantom" when I first saw it), but the second time, it really got me and since then, I have been singing or hearing it in my head almost non-stop! Andrew Lloyd Webber really seems to have poured a lot into the creation of this musical, and it's not just a cheap attempt at just cashing in on the Phantom success. He could have done that way earlier. Instead, I get the impression that Love Never Dies truly is his love-child and indeed something that has been fostering in his mind for a long time. And he's a fellow E/C shipper, yay :) I can't wait to see the show actually! Even if the plot sounds a little crazy, what really matters is that this new musical must create its very own magic around its characters, setting and music. After seeing the preview, I definitely have high hopes that LND will succeed in that department! The sound is different and fitting for the new setting in Coney Island, but retains the deep passion and emotionality that has been a trademark of "Phantom" since its creation. I am really excited to hear the rest of the soundtrack, going to order the CD now!

Favorite Line from "Till I hear you sing: I'll always feel no more than half way real/until I hear you sing once more....

PS. Ramin's facial expressions remind me some much of James Marsters (Spike) in this video!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Phantom of Manhattan

Frederick Forsyth's "Phantom of Manhattan" was staring at me from the sales table of a local bookstore -so I couldn't pass up this invitation and bought it (at a reduced price, thank god!). So, what can I say? After reading the introduction, the author already had pissed me off, by bashing both Leroux original novel (which, according to him, is badly written and full of unnecessary cruelties) and the Persian (who, according to him, is evil and hates Erik and shouldn't have a place in the story anyway). I was wondering, "did he actually read the Leroux book?!" Anyone who's read it should remember that the Persian does not hate Erik, but is the closest thing he has to a friend. The Leroux novel is, supposedly, badly structured and told by irrelevant people (aka the Persian). Now,if you read this, you could assume that the author will tell his story in a different way? Well, you'd be wrong. His storytelling is IMHO MUCH worse than Leroux', and he has a friggin' newsreporter tell a large part of the actual story. Then he goes on about how ALW's version is the ONLY logical one, and that Leroux made grave mistakes, such as underestimating Madame Giry's intellect and importance by not realising that she was actually the much-respected ballet mistress of the opera house. Errrrr... yeah, because that's proven historical fact, while Leroux' Madame Giry is a gross distorsion of reality, or what? Did I miss something here?

And that was just the introduction (which is about 1/4 of the book already)... The story itself is not even that crazy, but the storytelling really sucks and the characters are so cardboard that you don't feel anything for them. Heck, it's even hard to say they're out of character, because they have so little character! And Frederick Forsyth is also quite at a loss about how to explain how Erik and Christine got to have a son - which is understandable because the stage show really doesn't give much room for interpretation here. I can only imagine that he liked the idea of the son in Kay, and then tried to cram it into his own book no matter what... As for things I liked in the book:

*Raoul doesn't show up much, and is rather nice when he does
*The monkey musical box shows up as well. I really like the monkey musical box. I want to have one for my bedside table.
*The final scene is quite dramatic
*The mirror maze was a nice touch

I think that's about it for the things I liked. Reading PoM hasn't affected my opinion about LND though, because in my view, the key is always in how you tell a story, and I still have some hopes for that!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Book Review: Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

I got hold of this book by pure chance, when I stepped into a Waterstone's bookstore near Leicester Square in London, just before they closed, and they had this "Buy 2, get 1 free" offer. I already had "Sepulchre" by Kate Mosse and "Vlad: The Last Confession" by C.C. Humphries in my hands, and was actually prepared to leave the shop with only two books as it was already so late, but the assistant asked me if I didn't want my third book after all, and so I just picked out a random book whose cover I liked, and which turned out to be "Gargoyle". It had the slogan "love is as strong as death, as hard as hell" written on it, together with a heart in flames and a small stone gargoyle, so I couldn't possibly pass it up! I love darker, gothic romances (no happy ends for me!), and so it immediately attracted my curiosity. The story begins in the present, with a nameless man who is badly burned in a car accident, and his subsequent suffering and eventual recovery at the hospital. Being a great beauty (at least physically) before his accident, he now has a hard time dealing with the fact that he has been turned into a "monster". The first part of the novel is rather graphic and sometimes borders on gross, but once you have made your way through the first 100 pages, you're rewarded with a story of exceptional beauty. "Gargoyle" revolves around the character of Marianne Engel, who walks into the narrator's life one day and tells him they used to be lovers almost 700 years ago. She gradually reveals this medieval love story by telling it in parts, and this story is what fascinated me most in this novel, apart from the intricately woven worlds of fantasy and reality which become harder and harder to tell apart when the fantastic tales of Marianne Engel see to be proven by things in real life. According to the story, the narrator - in his past life - is an ex-mercenary who is badly burned and nursed back to health at the convent where Marianne lives as an apprentice at the scriptorium. The two fall in love and eventually decide to leave the monastery. Because of his disfigurement and mercenary past, the narrator has some trouble finding work as a stone mason, his other profession (it was here that I was reminded, once again, of Erik: disfigured ex-asssassin and master mason. The narrator draws the comparison between himself and the Phantom of the Opera explicitely twice in the novel as well, but mostly in regard to his disfigurement), but finally succeeds and some years of happiness for the two ensue. But their pasts will eventually return to haunt them both...

For me, the thing that truly makes a book is its ending. You can ruin the greatest story if you give it an ending that is sappy, too inconclusive, out of character or in any other way unsatisfactory. Based on Dante's "Inferno", "Gargoyle" delivers an admirable ending to all of its stories - my favourite being the one of the medieval love story: it's haunting, tragic, poignant - and perfect.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Love Never Dies

The sequel to the Phantom of the Opera musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber is probably one of them most anticipated and most vilified musical project of this year and possibly even of this entire decade. Hardly any reliable information regarding the score, casting and plot is out there apart from several contradictory rumours spread across the net, and yet most Phans are already fearing the undoing of their beloved legend. Myself though, I am pretty excited to see what Love Never Dies will be like, and especially to hear the score ALW is going to come up with, hoping for another stroke of genius from him. Am I strange?? I have to admit that I am quite new to the Phandom, and fell in love with the music and story when I saw the 2004 movie. After I had seen it, I ran out to buy Gaston Leroux' original (unabridged) novel as well as Susan Kay's "Phantom" and fell in love with those two versions as well. Especially Leroux' novel intrigued and fascinated me, because it leaves so much to the imagination and so many things open to interpretation. After that, I went to London to see the stage show, which was a wonderful experience, and I also got to watch the 1990 TV miniseries. And now I can hardly wait to see Love Never Dies, which (I hope) will be a breathtaking experience! I think it is still possible for it to come out great, if the music is able to convey the necessary passion, longing and also its share of darkness and despair, if they portray the characters convincingly and the actors are all up to their roles. Even though the plot might be a little weird, if they get it across in a convincing way it will probably save the whole thing.

Another thing that makes me curious about LND is the setup, which reminds me one of the books I used to love most when I was a teenager - and I'm not talking about Phantom of Manhattan here! The book I mean is called "Spiegelzeit" ("Time of the Mirrors") by one of the most celebrated german authors of fantasy: Wolfgang Hohlbein. This book contains so many elements that remind me of LND, such as:
*it is set in a late 19th/early 20th century fun fair
*a magical mirror maze and a freak show (which is incidentally owned by a disfigured magician who was badly burned in the great fire that destroyed the fun fair, and who prefers to stay incognito by actually serving as one of his own "exhibits"...) both play a major role in the story
*there is a love triangle
*it is a tale both of redemption (the father of the main character, a magician, must right the wrongs of his past and sacrifice himself) and of the contrast between inner and outer beauty an ugliness (the mirrors in this story are magical and show a person's true soul - for example, the burnt magician is beautiful when looked at in mirror, while the staring crowd at the freak show looks like a bunch of evil monsters)

It may all sound a little strange if you haven't read the book, but it is a beautiful story and I found the whole atmosphere at the old funfair extremely captivating. This is probably why I am so hopeful about LND - I know the Coney Island thing is a major turn-off for many Phans, especially when compared to the Opéra Garnier, but I am sincerely hoping that LND will be able to evoke the same magic as this book...

The only thing I was REALLY confused about was the date given -1907. WTF?? The original book is set in about 1880, the movie gives 1870 as the date - how the hell did they come up with 1907? If they want it to be 10 years after the first Phantom, the only date which would make sense would be counting from 1896, the year when the real chandelier accident happened...