Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Theater Review: Love Never Dies

Filed under: Performing Arts — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 03:13

The extraordinary musical Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to his phenomenon The Phantom of the Opera, opened Tuesday night at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The show has had a long and winding road to its current carnation, opening first in London to scathing reviews. In Webber’s defense, the musical genius was diagnosed with prostate cancer and started battling the disease early into the West End production’s previews and was unable to help improve it before its formal opening.  After shuttering in the UK, Webber spent a considerable amount of time reworking the show, bringing a new version to Australia, where it was met with raves and became a mega-hit. After its success Down Under, Webber vowed to take the show across the globe before hopefully finally bringing it to Broadway. And thus, the current tour, based on the Australian version directed by Broadway veteran Simon Phillips (Priscilla: Queen of the Desert), finds its way to Orlando.

So how exactly does the story from Phantom continue? Well, without giving too many plot elements away, the show takes place 10 years after its predecessor. Madame Giry and her daughter Meg have joined the Phantom in Coney Island, NY, where the trio have worked tirelessly in creating an amusement park that showcases the bizarre and musically-punctuated world one would expect from the Phantom. Meg is the park’s main talent and star attraction; but that changes when Christine Daae, her husband Raoul, and their son Gustave are lured to Coney Island, where Christine is set to perform an aria in Roger Hammerstein’s new theater.

There’s a LOT to love about Love Never Dies. While the actors Gardar Thor Cortes (The Phantom), Meghan Picerno (Christine), Karen Mason (Madame Giry), Sean Thompson (Raoul), and Mary Michael Patterson (Meg Giry) all give performances of their careers, the real star of the show is its music. Webber’s incredibly lush and melodic score, which is at times beautiful and soaring and then dark and foreboding, is perhaps one of the most beautiful scores he’s ever composed. The music is also, while reminiscent of some very occult threads from Phantom, fresh and unique for this show.

So don’t expect to hear that loud and familiar Phantom theme here. Its absence is as glaring as the crashing chandelier (although if you really want to hear that trademark theme from the original, stick around and take a listen to the exit music from the orchestra [which you should do anyway] as the theme appears there). The staging and costuming (both courtesy of an incredibly talented Aussie design team) are brilliantly dark and appropriate to the setting. The scene in Act II where Christine performs the title song (in show-stopping and breathtaking style by Picerno) is absolutely gorgeous. The performer is dressed in a jaw-dropping gown that seems to almost melts into the stage; and the pain, love, and tragedy conveyed in the song are palpable.

The only minor criticism the show deserves is in its blocking and choreographed sequences where the actors are forced to be somewhat over the top in their motions to convey their character. These characters are known to audiences; so histrionic movements and over-emphasized traits are both unnecessary and distracting. Orlando is only the second stop for the tour (it officially opened in Detroit on October 25th), so there’s plenty of time for the actors to smooth out these small kinks before winding down in Charolette, NC in September of 2018. Unfortunately, if you want to see Love Never Dies, you just may have to see it elsewhere. The ENTIRE Orlando run is sold out! Hopefully this translates to massive profits for the life of the touring show, which allows producers to not only recoup but also invest in a Broadway run in 2019. Some individual tickets remain and can be purchased through the Dr. Phillips Center Web Site (https://www.drphillipscenter.org/events/tickets/2017/love-never-dies/) . Check out  the trailer for Love Never Dies below:


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