When I went: 4 December 2010
Location: Adelphi Theatre, London
Performers: Ramin Karimloo (Phantom), Sierra Boggess (Christine), Joseph Millson (Raoul), Summer Strallen (Meg), Niamh Perry (Fleck)
Creative team: Andrew Lloyd Webber (music), Glenn Slater and Charles Hart (lyrics), Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton (book), Bill Kenwright (director)
Approximate price: £67
Special points: Moody dark gothic plot
Best bit: Devil Take the Hindmost
If I could change one thing: Sharper storytelling
The Phantom of the Opera is such a well-loved musical that any sequel or linked musical was always going to be attacked by phans of the original. However, while the storytelling in Love Never Dies isn’t as strong or coherent as that in Phantom, with revisions made to the opening and songs cut from the stage version after initial performances, in my opinion the songs are still extremely good.
This story amps up the sadness and bitterness, and does stretch the bounds of plausibility a little – would Christine really have slept with the Phantom after the events of the first musical? And how likely is it that this one liaison would have got her pregnant? And why wouldn’t Raoul wouldn’t have noticed that Gustave wasn’t much like him? However, the setting in Coney Island feels appropriate for the freakish elements of the plot.
My biggest gripe in terms of character is probably the fact that the Phantom is reduced from a towering misunderstood genius to just some jealous old guy who runs shows including topless revue elements. The chasm between Christine and Raoul, and the jealousy of Meg, are more believable.
I still believe that Love Never Dies will return to London and will get more acclaim in the future, mostly because of the strength of the music. In the meantime, the songbook is great if you are handy with a piano and can sing.
Andrew Lloyd Webber sets a notoriously high bar for his vocalists to attempt to leap over, and Sierra Boggess clearly has the talent to surmount it, and the acting ability to convey Christine’s turmoil. Joseph Millson and Summer Strallen were impressive as Raoul and Meg, but Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom was probably the standout performer, and sung masterfully. It was also good to see Niamh Perry (from the BBC’s I’d Do Anything) as Fleck and I’d like to see her in a bigger role – she has an interesting, almost fragile quality to her voice and performances.
The song Devil Take the Hindmost was a high point in terms of staging and was one of the most successful songs, adding a bit of excitement and tension above the general mood of gloom and desperation.
I didn’t leave the theatre feeling uplifted or optimistic, mostly due to the dark ending, but I immediately knew that the Angel of Music would be singing those songs in my head for some time to come.