Saturday, March 6, 2010
Love Never Dies - My review
*Please note that this review contains spoilers*
I went to see Love Never Dies in previews last monday in London and must say that my overall impression was better than I expected! If you want to hate it, you will probably find a lot of things in it that you can hate, and if you want to love it, there's a similar amount of things that you can love. So I'll go with my gut feeling and say I really enjoyed watching it! To get this straight: it will never be as good as the original musical, it has some serious weaknesses and the plot is quite close to "Phantom of Manhattan". I really hated PoM but LND has a lot of redeeming qualities which that dreadful book did not possess. I talked to the man sitting in front of me and he had enjoyed the show so much when he saw it first that this was already the second time he came to see it.
The musical score is, though not of equal grandeur as the original (show dancing just isnt opera!) is verz moving and passionate - especially whenever Erik and Christine have one of their scenes together. I didn't care much for the whole period music, but then it's meant to contrast with the "soul music" Erik can only write for Christine and it's explicitely stated by Mme Giry (I think) that the show music is crap. I felt that the weakest part were the lyrics, which were lacking both in subtlety and in wit. But then I'm not a native speaker, so I will have to read the again in full. Oh, and even though the audience loved him, I have to say that I found Gustave just a little annoying... Same as the organ-playing gorilla thingy and the Cinderella glass carriage!
The whole setup is visually extremely impressive, making abundant usage of a double curtain which is used as a screen to project images of coney island etc., and lovely stage furnishing in Christine's hotel/dressing room. There's also a rotating stage which facilitates changes of scene from indoors to outdoors or from stage to backstage. Theres also quite a few passages of
instrumental music, giving the overall impression that this might have been written for the screen just as well as for the stage (hey, there]s me hoping for the movie version :P). It is a pity that they were not yet selling the album so I could not really understand all the details, and I beg your pardon for any misinterpretation which might arise from my incomplete understanding of the plot.
The plot itself adheres quite closely to the Phantom of Manhattan, but without committing the major errors (in my view): neclecting the main characters and banning all emotion from the scene. To the contrary, LND is a verz emotional and intense musical which almost exclusively brings back the old characters from Phantom. Sierra Boggess is a lovely Christine, I also love the fact that her voice sounds a bit like Emmy Rossum's. Ramin Karimloo has an amazingly expressive voice as well and has proven before that he is a very good Phantom. The whole visual impression is closer to the movie version - which is not really surprising, as the original Phantom staging is more than 24 years old and the movie version also reflects Andrew Lloyd Webber's own vision which has oviously changed over time as well. "Phantom" musical purists will probably see this as a downside as well, but for me, who first heard and saw "Phantom" on the screen and not on stage, it is a plus.
The musical score, although as stated before does not have the same operatic grandeur as the original, is rather beautiful and I already got most of the tunes stuck in my head even after just hearing it once! "Till I hear you sing", "Look with your heart" and "Love Never Dies" are the first that come to my mind. I think I must listen to the score some more times over before I can actually pass a final judgement on it. The "in-between" songs are - from my first impression - not as memorable as the ones in "Phantom", but then I might still change my opinion on this, as it took me quite a few runs through "Phantom" to fall in love with "Prima Donna" or "Il Muto". What's missing is a show-stopper such as "Masquerade" though. But to be honest, no musical will probably ever come close to "Phantom" for me! "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita" would come second and third for me, but they're still nowhere as freaking perfection.
The ending is reminiscent of the original musical, but under different auspices. Now, the desperate one is not the Phantom, but Meg. What Love Never Dies achieves again, is that you feel sorry for each character in their own way. There are no real villains in "Phantom". In the original, Erik kidnapped Christine and Raoul comes after her to save her. In LND, Meg kidnaps Gustave and then threatens to kill herself in a desperate cry for attention (we have already learned that she has some suicidal tendencies in the bar scene). She threatens to kill herself but then accidentally shoots Christine. Christine's death is rather drawn out and involves lots of singing, but then this is nothing unheard of in opera death scenes. The E/C shipper in me just wishes they had shared more in LND than this one last kiss...
*Character development: It has been argued that the character portrayals are one-dimensional and unrealistic compared to the original.I cannot really agree with this.Everyone has obviously changed in the past 10 years and also the end of the original musical had its protagonists undergo some major changes (especially for Christine, it's almost a coming of age moment). The Phantom, who experienced love and acceptance for the first time at the endof PotO, has clearly changed as well and has grown as a character. He is no longer borderline insane, but still retains some of the possessive, obsessive personality and Christine is still the only one for him. Christine is a mother now and and less innocent and fearful than in Phantom, but warm-hearted, fragile and still very much torn between the two men she loves in such different ways (especially in her reprise of "Twisted every way"). Raoul may have turned an alcoholic but we know it's because the woman he loves does not love him back in the same way. Meg has fallen in love with the Phantom, who is completely blind to the tragedy that her unrequited love will bring upon them.
The original show had some very powerful symbols, like the white mask, the single red rose, the mirror, the chandelier, the music box, the envelopes and last but not least, the Opera house itself. Part of the fascination of Phantom (at least for me) that you can actually go to the Opera Garnier and (if you're very lucky) you can even see the labyrinth beneath and wonder "What if the Phantom was really a living person? How much of the story is or might actually have happened?", and Love Never Dies just doesn't have this. Sure, Coney Island is a real place but there is no legend like the Phantom one connected with it.
*Random things I did not like:
The Phantom putting the necklace on Christine before she decided whether to sing or to leave. It reminds me too much of Cal putting the "heart of the ocean" on Rose, symbolizing the chains he's putting on her. And what's with saying that Raoul always gave her a single red rose? After Christine's performance, the Phantom hands her a bouquet of white roses. It would have been far more fitting to have him give her his signature red rose. Oh, and the whole completely messed-up dates!!
So, enough of my incoherent ramblings and impressions from the show :) Overall, if you have always thought that Erik and Christine really belong together and you wish to have some kind of closure for them, then I really recommend seeing this. If you think that Raoul and Christine were perfect, by all means listen to the music and see if you like it. It's not at if PotO will change because of Love Never Dies.