Monthly Archives: October 2013

Love Never Dies is Dead to Me, Part 3

And now, the final chapter!

ACT TWO

The second act begins with Raoul sitting in a bar arguing with the bartender over whether he’s had enough to drink. I guess they tossed this done-to-death cliché in at the last-minute.

checklist.jpeg

There has to be a checklist. There has to be!

Raoul’s wondering why Christine loves him, and to be perfectly honest, I’m wondering the same thing. Raoul was by no means my favourite character in the original but depending on who was playing him, I could understand why Christine fell for him. But now…all I can say is if I had a husband like Raoul is here, I would have shown him the door a long time ago.

Anyway, Meg Giry enters and explains through that she swims every day to combat stress in a boring slow song which lasts around two minutes. So she swims. Wow…that’s such a vital piece of information about Meg there. I could not have got through the rest of the show without knowing that laughable attempt at foreshadowing.
Meg tells Raoul that he must take Christine and Gustave and leave before Christine sings, lest the Phantom cast his spell on her again. Raoul says he’s not afraid of the Phantom, just as the Phantom shows up behind the bar – I know, just go with it – and makes a bet with Raoul. If Christine does not sing, Raoul may leave with Gustave and Christine and all his debts will be paid. If she does sing, Raoul must leave alone. This is all in song, of course, called Devil Take the Hindmost because that phrase is repeated every line whether it makes sense or not.

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Which brings me to yet another issue I have. The songs. This is possibly the most forgettable score I have ever heard in my life. The melodies are boring, they don’t stay in your head and the lyrics make the listener die inside. The score is so obviously trying to live up to the score of Phantom and it just fails hard. Wait, no, I tell a lie. I did enjoy two songs. I liked ‘Til I Hear You Sing although that’s more due to the fabulous vocals of both Ramin Karimloo and Ben Lewis than the actual music. The melody itself didn’t actually become familiar until I listened to it about 10 times (I have a photographic memory so for me to say I struggle to remember something is a profound statement). I also give The Beauty Underneath credit since it does have a somewhat catchy beat. But again, the lyrics are so sub-par and in Beauty Underneath, the bizarre visuals kind of detract from the song. Not to mention the heavy use of electric guitars being so distracting and out-of- nowhere (by the way, I’m aware that the original used rock music for the title number. But in that song, it worked because the rock influence was subtle and one of many ways the song stays with you after you leave the theatre). Songs in musicals are meant to tell the story and show what the characters are feeling; it’s not a license to show off how much you can scrounge from Nightmare Before Christmas’ table scraps. Trust me, I’ll get to my complaints about the design of the show soon, but let me start by saying the set is there to create another world. It should not be used as a crutch to help the story limp along and it shouldn’t be the one thing praised about a show!

The song Devil Take the Hindmost has more like a repeated 2 note, 2 beat underscoring as opposed to actual musical accompaniment. And I need scarcely mention that this scene is just as bad as most of the others we’ve been subjected to. It’s slow, painful to sit through, and there’s absolutely nothing subtle about it. I should be used to it by now but it particularly stands out to me because there is one aspect here I simply can’t let slide. The Phantom delivers one of the worst lines in the show in this scene. “Our Christine will choose tonight: is she yours or mine?”

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I’ve been trying to limit my use of this one, but the show isn’t helping.

* bang * What do you mean, she’ll choose tonight?!? Have you lost your mind?!? She already chose, you idiots! The first show spent the final 20 minutes on her choice, we all saw it! What, did you fall asleep or something? Are you seriously trying to bring back the already resolved conflict? This is just….painful!
Not only this, but the Phantom also hints about Gustave’s paternity, causing Raoul to sink into despair wondering what Christine will do and beginning to regret making such a stupid bet in the first place. So here’s our big dilemma, people. Will Christine sing or not?

stupidity knows no bounds

For heaven’s sake, children’s nursery rhymes have more drama than this! This story has no depth or tension at all. The main complication is starting in Act 2, and it’s not exactly riveting either! You can’t have a good, gripping story without some major conflict; this is primary school knowledge! Even uplifting shows like The Sound of Music know this!

My three favourite musicals are (in no particular order) Phantom of the Opera, Into The Woods and Wicked. (Edit: as of 2015, my three favourite musicals are Into the Woods, Seussical and Once) Why do I like them? Because the music is spectacular, the stories are solid, and it’s a visual feast that can take you out of this world and into its own for a couple of hours. Now I know there are some of you out there who hate Wicked and say “That was just a flashy neon spectacle, all they cared about was ruining The Wizard of Oz!”

wicked

I disagree and here’s why. Wicked knew what it wanted to be. Wicked knew the audience. It knew the show should be a light, fun comedic musical with serious messages behind the laughter. The show was carefully constructed with memorable music, sympathetic characters and mind-blowing visuals. Is it Les Miserables? No, but it’s not trying to be. Wicked may not be a heavy dramatic story like Next To Normal but it’s very entertaining and a heck of a lot of fun to watch, which in turn made the serious messages come across much stronger because you LIKE AND CARE ABOUT THESE CHARACTERS! The staging accentuates the story, and it pulls you into another world. It’s not a flashy spectacle for the sake of being a flashy spectacle. There’s PURPOSE!

But wait a minute! I can hear people saying. Wicked is a prequel to the Wizard of Oz! It’s destroying a classic story! I personally feel that Wicked is more about creating it’s own world and paying homage to a classic story than about changing it in any way. It asks hard questions and gives us some very moving moments. It’s all about giving us another perspective on a story we love. Wicked is truly it’s own creation. We never see Dorothy but there’s witty references to her throughout the show. Elphaba’s theme is a tribute to Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Yes, the original novel is fan fiction but it was thought out and the creators of the musical did a great job updating and creating their interpretation. Yeah, there’s a few clichéd plot devices here and there but the rest of the show is so sweet and uplifting that you really don’t notice. On top of that, Wicked essentially knew that the story had to be about the friendship between the two main characters. That’s the heart of the narrative, that’s where people can relate, and that’s where the drama comes from. It’s not about fan service or pandering to childish desires for a happy ending. It’s an enjoyable escape for all ages.

But back to Love Never Dies, that’s the one I’m talking about.

 

Finish-Line

I’m on the home stretch!

Instead of developing the drama, we’re instead treated to Meg Giry’s striptease Bathing Beauty, easily the most dreadful song in the entire show. It’s about, and I’m not joking here, deciding which swimming costume to wear on the beach. * bang *

bathing beauty

This can’t be real. It can’t be.

Granted the choreography is impressive but the whole song I am literally praying for death. The lyrics are just embarrassing and the music is something you’d be more likely to hear in a Family Guy parody. But even they’d have more dignity that this rubbish!
Meg has five costumes in this number and by the end, she’s completely bare. Yes, she’s covered with the umbrella and I’m sure she’s wearing a unitard or something but really? She had to strip down to bare essentials? What happened to the quiet little ballerina who tiptoed around in a white tutu most of the time?

I truly don’t understand why the characters are so opposite to their established personalities. They were fine the way they were, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Apparently, members of the original London Phantom cast either refused to see the sequel because they couldn’t see it working (including Michael Crawford) or working, and those who did see it, such as the original Meg (Janet Devenish) disliked the treatment of their old characters. See, people involved with the far better and more successful original don’t like this one. Are you still sure it’s worth the millions of dollars spent?

Now it’s time to talk about the design. I can honestly say that it appears all effort in this show was solely poured into how it looked. Costumes and sets. That’s it. The book? The score? Characters? Eh, we’ll mix something together ten minutes before the curtain. It’s like the 2004 Phantom of the Opera film adaptation. Style over substance. The set and costume design is terrific but apart from that, there is absolutely nothing below the surface. At all. It’s like watching money being burned. We’ve gone from interesting characters and dark dramatic action to a cheesy striptease. Maybe it works in the Rocky Horror Show. But this is Phantom of the Opera. Just….why?

While you try to grasp what the heck you just witnessed, Gangle announces Christine will be singing next as Meg gushes about her performance to her mother who tells her that while she was wonderful, the Phantom was with Christine and Gustave and didn’t see it, along with revealing that Gustave is the Phantom’s son. “We have both been replaced,” Madame Giry laments. Meg is shattered, I suppose, but because the lights go down within several seconds we don’t get much of an idea of the torment Meg is suddenly feeling. We’ve gone the whole show with very little character development or insight; we can last a little longer.

Meanwhile Christine gets ready for her performance in her dressing room and we see another nice but still glanced-over scene between her and Gustave. Raoul comes in and declares Christine looks as beautiful as she did the night he first visited her dressing room at the Paris Opera House. “And look at you, Raoul. You look just like that handsome boy in the opera box. The one who would always toss me a single red rose,”
Wait a second, when did that happen? The only time he visits her dressing room he brings a bottle of wine and he never tosses a rose from the opera box. Sweet heavenly lights, are you TRYING to add as many plot holes as you possibly can? Did you get ONE thing right? At all? And yes, I know I’m nitpicking here but damn it there’s so many things to nitpick!

Anyway Raoul gives Christine something resembling an apology and promises to change his ways if she’ll just leave with him now and not sing. Christine says she needs some time to think, unaware that the Phantom is watching through the mirror. I guess old habits die hard. He tells Christine she must forget Raoul and sing while giving her a necklace which doesn’t in any way resemble the Heart of the Ocean from Titanic, or, heaven forbid, the necklace from Moulin Rouge.

Love Never Dies, sequel to Phantom of the Opera


Actually, I heard someone point out that when Christine first appears onstage she looks an awful lot like Rose from Titanic. Heck, in this scene she’s also dressed like Rose and she’s looking in the mirror while the Phantom puts the necklace on her.

* bang * I’m surprised I’m still conscious.

The Phantom leaves as Christine reprises yet another melody from the original. Actually, I kept score of how many times I heard recycled tunes and direct quotes from the first show, and it totals 20. This is beyond desperate.
So while Christine debates whether to sing or not (what a chilling dilemma), we see a completely pointless scene where Raoul, the Phantom and Madame Giry wonder what Christine will do (and may I point out that we know she’s going to sing since she promised the Phantom she would; why would a couple of words from her loser of a husband change her mind?) while Fleck, Squelch and Gangle dance around Gustave before Meg…since there’s no dialogue I guess she tells Gustave to come with her and takes him somewhere in front of the Phantom who doesn’t even notice. Father of the freaking year, you are.

And while I’m on the subject, what the heck is Gustave doing unattended backstage? Raoul and Christine told him to go wait outside the dressing room so he could watch from the wings with Raoul. Why didn’t Raoul go and find him? Oh that’s right, he had to go and sing about the so-called dramatic climax, leaving a little child to fend for himself. No surprises that he’s going to be dragged off by a mentally unstable vaudeville dancer.

But of course what we all really want to know is if Christine will sing or not. Lo and behold, she appears onstage, unable to sing for several bars, but eventually she trills out the title song, written by the Phantom. And listening to it, it’s painfully obvious Andrew Lloyd Webber wanted this to be the centrepiece, the next big musical theatre classic. It’s not. Aside from the fact that it is note for note recycled from ALW’s The Beautiful Game, the tune is nice enough, but forgettable, and the words are horrendous. Thankfully I’ll never remember it so I guess that’s not going to haunt my nightmares or anything.

peacock

No, I’m not sure what peacocks have to do with this either.

Once it’s over, the Phantom is overjoyed by Christine’s singing. Just to clarify, he’s talking about the song that he wrote even though he spent the opening number singing about how he couldn’t write any music without Christine, yet somehow finished before she arrived. For the record, I know that he wrote it before she showed up because it was on the piano in the first hotel room scene. I hope some of you are keeping track of all the plot holes because I lost count a long time ago.

Also, am I the only one who can’t believe that they say the Phantom, the groundbreaking musical genius, went from Don Juan Triumphant in the first show, with lyrics such as “For the thrill on your tongue of stolen sweets/You will have to pay the bill, tangled in the winding sheets,” to this drivel?

Seriously, talk about losing your touch. Christine just sang “Who knows when love begins/Who knows what makes it start/One day it’s simply there/Alive inside your heart”
I’m sorry, even a Disney movie would laugh this off the stage. There’s just nothing there. It’s all superficial and did I mention a massive step down from the beautiful writing of the first show? But….I digress.

Now that Christine’s sung this song, the Phantom is fulfilled and Christine finally kisses him…again…..but suddenly she discovers Raoul’s note of farewell. And with another recycled Little Lotte, Raoul sings via the mirror – I’ll let that one go – that he’s leaving her since they are no longer the two people they were at the Paris Opera (the first accurate line of dialogue I’ve heard in this thing!). Yes, after his vows of “Say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime” he’s just up and gone. No truthful explanation. No sticking to the marriage vows for better or worse. No memories of the promises he made on the Paris Opera rooftop. Just a note signed yours in regret.
Are you serious? I know it’s 1907 but is that really how you sign a goodbye letter to your wife?
In addition, he also says “May your Angel of Music watch over you now,” Yeah, you know, the man you spent the majority of the last show protecting Christine from. The man who tried to hang you in the final scene. I’m sure he’s a great one to leave your wife and the boy you raised (and most likely is!) as your own son with. For the love of all that’s holy, where’s social services?!?

makeitstop

HOW MUCH LONGER IS THIS THING?!?

But enough of that. It turns out Gustave is missing and the two worry that Raoul took him. However Squelch, without knowing anything about what’s happened, says Raoul left completely alone. So the next logical choice is Madame Giry, but she denies it. Then Fleck says she saw Meg with a small figure and says her dressing room was “silent as a tomb”. Clearly the lyricist went back to English class and changed this from the horrendously inappropriate original line “empty as a tomb,”
The Phantom somehow knows where Meg’s taken Gustave and they hurry after her. Apparently Meg has taken Gustave to a notorious suicide spot, the pier, which has only been mentioned once and therefore creating no connection, tension or buildup.

Down at the pier, Gustave tells Meg he can’t swim as the others try to talk her out of drowning the boy. Now that she’s finally gotten the Phantom’s attention a distraught Meg, inappropriately reprising Bathing Beauty, reveals that she has been working as a prostitute to provide his finances.

* bang * She’s been selling herself? What sick…twisted….how…. * bang * That’s it. I officially give up. No more logic, no more questions. There was no thought put into this whatsoever, they just didn’t care.

In the London production, Madame Giry is the one who forced Meg to prostitute herself. They must have had some sense penetrate their thick skulls for the Australian remake, since her own mother making her do something like this also doesn’t add up. While it’s true we don’t see a real lot of motherly love going on in either show, Meg does spend the majority of her appearances with her mother and she doesn’t really show any fear or resentment towards her. But even if Madame Giry didn’t make Meg do this, I’d love to know what possessed Meg to let herself do something so degrading and then cry about it!
I’d also like to mention that if they’re trying to make us feel sympathy for Meg, it’s not working! Why? For a start, she’s a secondary character. She’s not the focus of either story. We don’t see that much of her and every time we do see her, there is absolutely no hint that this has happened to her. You can’t just suddenly act like she was this big crucial character all along. It doesn’t work. We don’t feel sympathy for her, we’re just confused at this revelation. Plus, she was about to kill an innocent child! And what I really struggle to believe is that out of all the people who worked on this ridiculous script, not one person thought to question whether this made sense or not.

Ok. Sequel 101 guys:

A sequel is meant to logically continue the story using characters and hints at future plots given in the original source material. You should give careful consideration to what direction the story should go in and giving us more insight into established character traits with reasonable developments according to what we already know about them. A sequel isn’t an excuse to exploit what was an excellent piece of theatre in its own right by pulling characterisation and plot devices out of thin air. It has to make sense!!!!!!

So even though she was going to drown a ten year old, Meg needs very little persuasion to let Gustave run back to his mother before pulling out a gun and threatening to shoot herself. “No Meg, don’t!” says Madame Giry.

Now listen lady, you’re just as big a part of this since you’re the one who didn’t notice your own flesh and blood was sleeping around, even if you didn’t make her do it. You’re responsible here, and honestly, you shouldn’t be a parent if you neglect your only daughter like that. Again, one of those brilliant character choices they’ve made here. If Meg’s mother did make her do this like in the London production, that makes no sense because of the characterisation and if she didn’t notice that her daughter was selling herself, that still makes no sense! Did she ever think to question where all the money to buy Phantasma was coming from?

Also, Meg wanting the Phantom’s attention is a bit…sporadic. There’s no interaction between them until now, and they hardly mention that she wants approval.Why would she even want to be the subject of his obsession? She saw first hand what his obsessions mean.
Here’s yet another plot point they hardly explore and expect us to take seriously. You’re supposed to weave exposition into the story and dialogue, not wait until the last minute to tell the audience what they’ve been watching all along!
But…I digress.

The Phantom sings a little bit about beauty and tells Meg to give him the gun. She almost does, but then the Phantom makes the stupid mistake of saying “We can’t all be like Christine,”
* bang * That is the absolute worst thing you can say to someone who’s threatening to commit suicide because you gave all your attention to someone else! How thick can you get?!?

Needless to say, Meg isn’t too thrilled about once more hearing a certain name. “Christine? Christine?! Always Christine!” She accidentally shoots the gun and no prizes for guessing who gets hit.
Christine conveniently knocks out a section of the bridge as she falls so the audience can see her demise. Madame Giry and Meg leave the scene so we can have the long, drawn-out goodbye. Oh, and there’s no blood. I guess the budget didn’t allow for it. Or maybe they just didn’t want to stain the pretty dress.
Gustave calls out for his father and Christine decides it’s time to tell him the truth. Oh yeah, in addition to dying in front of your ten year old child, why not rock his world further by telling him that everything he knew was a lie?
Despite the Phantom’s pleas, Christine tells Gustave who his real father is. And for once, Gustave does what most children would do: he runs away. And somehow, despite apparently having minutes to live, Christine is able to half run after Gustave before remembering that she’s supposed to be dying and falling over again. * bang bang bang bang bang *

So they sing to each other — tell me you wouldn’t do the same thing — because for the finale we’re going to hear a reprise of nearly every song this train wreck has to offer. It’s like they knew nobody would remember the music, so they’re trying to cram it into the audience’s minds.

death

Why is it people who apparently have fatal injuries are always able to give a heroic goodbye speech or sing for ages? Just shut up!

By the way, Christine’s death is being stretched out to excruciating lengths, so I’m playing a little game here as I watch this scene. It’s a fun game the Nostalgia Critic introduced me to, and it’s called Try To Be Invested.
Seriously. I actually tried to care while I saw Christine die and I failed hard. I know, I have no heart and I’m going to hell and whatever else you want to say. But I’m sorry, this is so cliched, so contrived and so pointless that it has no effect on me. This is the kind of thing you’d see in Days of Our Lives, not a grand stage musical. The original show had a point with its sad but realistic ending. The whole show was building up to this big final confrontation and the first time I saw it, I really had no idea how it would end. When the curtain finally fell, nobody could deny the power of the final scene. It was so genuine, so real and so well played that it moves many people to tears even if they’ve seen it multiple times. We can relate to being alone and rejected, and it’s just heart- wrenching to see our complex leading character being so broken.

Here, this finale, and the whole show for that matter, is so carelessly thrown together that it’s just nonsensical. If you want to have a sad ending, fine, but there has to be a build up! You can’t just toss this incredibly spontaneous death scene at us and expect us to feel emotion for it. There is absolutely no reason at all for Christine to die and especially not like this. Why would Meg shoot Christine? Even by accident (in London it was played as a more deliberate shooting)? They’re friends; wouldn’t someone be a little more careful about pointing guns when their mother, their friend and the person whose approval they crave most of all are mere feet away? Coupled with Meg being revealed as a prostitute it only makes this ending more bizarre. It comes completely out of nowhere without giving any explanations or time for the audience to comprehend such heavy plot twists. Heck, Meg never even explicitly states that she was a prostitute; she cryptically sings about it, so the audience is basically expected to read between the lines. So this death scene only throws more at you in a short amount of time with no breathing space.

To the credit of these actors, they do this ending well, and while I know sometimes sudden character deaths can be sad, here it’s just a sad ending for the sake of being a sad ending. The first show managed to give us a very touching finale without killing off any main characters. And I repeat, these aren’t the characters we saw in the first show, so how am I supposed to feel anything for them? If Webber wanted a really moving, heartfelt finale to a show, he needed to look no further than the one that already exists!

Anyway, they sing some more, he kisses her one last time, she dies and he laments his loss by screaming “No!!!”
Now to be fair, I did feel sad seeing Gustave cry over his mother, but he quickly gets over his grief as Raoul (hi, how did Gustave find him?), Madame Giry and Meg return to have their moment with Christine. Gustave takes off the Phantom’s mask, but this time he doesn’t scream like a banshee. I suppose he just decided that it was beautiful too. The Phantom sings a few bars of the title song (this is the one time it probably would have worked to repeat the line “You alone can make my song take flight/It’s over now the music of the night” and they didn’t take it. But what should I have expected?), and the curtain falls leaving the door open for Phantom 3: Son of the Phantom (heaven help us).

So, just to recap everyone, The Phantom and Christine had a child together, Meg Giry was a prostitute the entire time, Madame Giry should have DOCS on her case, Raoul’s a drunken loser, and the real drama in a story is whether Christine sings or not.

alice-face-palm-featured

How can anyone like this? HOW???

People, this show is bad. It really is. It’s dull, it’s predictable, it’s contrived, and honestly, it doesn’t know what the focus of the story should be. There is no drama here. Granted there are some lovely moments between Christine and Gustave but they’re pretty much glanced over and anything else which threatens to become engaging is quickly extinguished. I tried to watch this show with an open mind. A few things surprised me, but overall, it gave me pretty much what I expected: a stupid sequel to a story that didn’t need one. I’ve forced myself to slog through this mess and here’s what I have to show for it: 30 facedesks and two hours of my life gone.

What really shocks me is that the show had four writers. Four! And not one of them knew they were writing absolute rubbish. What were they thinking?!? What was going through the minds of these people when they sat down and actually read over what they’d done? I’ll never know, and frankly, I’m not sure I want to. Some mysteries of life are best left unsolved.

I could honestly tolerate the musical more if it was at least entertaining, like Wicked. But it’s not. It’s horribly put together. Plot twists that even a soap opera would laugh at, lyrics that make most people want to crawl under their seat and die quietly, melodies that you’ll only remember if you sing them as often as the cast does, a weak conflict that isn’t introduced until Act 2, and they’ve completely dissembled our main players. They just don’t work in this environment, especially in the London production. Visually, it was slightly better in the Australian re-imagining, but the flaws are still there and from a storytelling point of view, there is virtually no attempt at fixing them. Making a boring and incredibly unfeasible musical good can be done (Sondheim proved this with Merrily We Roll Along), but not if the only solution is to make it worth looking at. That’s like finding a burned-out car, giving it a shiny new paint job and attaching a bunch of pretty stickers. Sure, it looks nice and you’d admire the decorators for putting in effort, but it doesn’t make the car run.

The critics called the sequel Paint Never Dries. And sadly, they’re right. Phantom did not need a sequel. And certainly not one so poorly constructed. This is not the show for me and anyone else who enjoys intelligent, quality theatrical entertainment. I wouldn’t recommend it to a dog.
And my main problem lies with the story. I am all for suspension of disbelief, but I have my limits and the choices they made to go with the narrative are just mind-boggling. I can hardly comprehend it. And while the visuals are spectacular and the singers are undeniably brilliant, I get the feeling that they’re working overtime to give the show some credibility.  Sometimes a strong cast can save a horribly written movie or show, but in most cases, like the one we see before us, it actually hurts to see such talent wasted on such incredibly weak material.
The beauty of the original was its emotional impact. The sets and costumes were a visual feast but they weren’t the focus. The designs were there to give the show a setting. The focus of the story was where it should be: the three main characters. And that’s all that was needed.
With Love Never Dies, aside from marvelling at the set and admiring the vocals, there really isn’t much else to enjoy. Even as its own creation, it doesn’t work. It still has a weak story, unlikeable characters, bland music, and terrible lyrics. Which means that as a sequel to the most successful stage show in history it’s even worse.

And before I finish, here’s one last omen showing that Love Never Dies was a bad idea from day one. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s cat Otto reportedly clambered onto his digital piano and managed to delete the entire score. All attempts to recover the music failed but the score was eventually reconstructed.

Webber, even your cat tried to stop you. Next time, could you consider listening?

Love Never Dies is Dead to Me, Part 2

The Phantom asks Christine to sing one more time for him on Phantasma. She refuses just as little Gustave runs into the room after a nightmare and Christine introduces the Phantom as Mr. Y, a “friend”. You know, the man you just said you owed nothing to. The man who stalked you at the Paris Opera house, had a two-way mirror in your dressing room, built a life sized replica of you in his lair, abducted you twice, shot fireballs at you from your father’s grave, killed two people and threatened to strangle your fiancé. Your friend.

see with your heart

“This is Mr Y, he tried to kill your father. I’m sure you two will be great friends!”

Gustave isn’t at all intimidated by this masked stranger who promises to show him all of Phantasma. This revelation of Christine having a child prompts the Phantom to switches tactics, threatening that if Christine doesn’t sing, Gustave may just disappear. Terrific. This is so uplifting. But then again, this is more the Phantom we knew. Are you still sure he’s more three-dimensional this time around, Webber?

Raoul returns and he’s angry (of course) that Hammerstein never showed up to the meeting. Wait, wait, wait! Just hold up here for a second! So was this all the Phantom’s plan or not? The Phantom just said to Christine, “I know what Hammerstein’s paying you. I will double the amount,”

I thought the Phantom sent an anonymous invite, but now…are they trying to hint that maybe he didn’t? But if that’s the case, this makes it even stranger, because if Christine really was invited to sing at Manhattan’s new theatre, what are they doing on Coney Island? Why did the three MC’s come to meet them? Obviously the implication is that the Phantom sent Raoul a fake note so he could get Christine alone, but if this wasn’t his doing, did he plan for them to be there? Why would they be meeting Hammerstein on Coney Island if this new theatre is in Manhattan? What’s the deal? Look, I know I’m totally going off on a tangent here, but I thought they’d be pretty clear that this was all a big plot to lure Christine back to the Phantom, and now they act like it was just one big coincidence that he simply used to his advantage….it confuses me and makes me overanalyse.

But if I pull apart all the plot holes I’ll be here all day. On we go.

The next day Christine and Raoul run into Meg and Madame Giry. Meg is slightly dismayed that Christine will be singing at the performance which was meant to be Meg’s ‘lucky break’.
Listen Meg, just quietly, I think you’ve had a pretty lucky break already considering you’re the freaking leading lady of Phantasma! Really, it’s like Satine from Moulin Rouge; a girl isn’t satisfied with being on stage surrounded by adoring fans every night. Heaven knows how unfulfilling it must be to have your act introduced as the headliner at one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world!

Madame Giry gives Raoul a hint (read: flipping spells it out!) that “Mr. Y”, the owner of Phantasma, is in fact the Phantom.
* bang *
I thought Raoul was supposed to be the smarter one! This is the guy who brought Christine back to reality in the graveyard, who reminded Christine that the Phantom was nothing but a man. True, he thought it would only take a woman in the 19th century two minutes to change clothes but….this I just cannot believe. Raoul, you received a note, the person you was supposed to be meeting never turned up, you get taken to Coney Island by circus freaks and you’re in a place called PHANTASMA, run by a person calling himself “Mr. Y” where Madame Giry just happens to be? I know you thought the Phantom was dead but might I remind you that the Phantom is a master of illusion and disappearing acts which you personally witnessed therefore making it reasonable to assume that he could quite easily fake his own death!

Raoul….what have they done to you?

youmonster

I suppose I should talk about the different actors here so I can give them the credit they undeniably deserve. Even people who saw the show and didn’t like it admitted that the actors are wonderful. So as the Phantom, in the London production we have Ramin Karimloo and in Australia he’s played by Ben Lewis. They’re both excellent singers and are doing their best with the tissue-thin material given to them. I love Ramin’s gestures and mannerisms and his characterisation is close to flawless. This is one of my favourite Phantoms, coming in after the legendary original, Michael Crawford.
Ben Lewis is also good. He has a great voice and he can certainly act, even if he is over-the-top.
They both have the required stage presence while physically and vocally embodying the Phantom as he should be….which unfortunately highlights how out of place this character is. He simply doesn’t belong in this world. As the excellent group/website Love Should Die pointed out, the Phantom already escaped from a travelling freak show so why would he want to be in charge of one?
It’s really strange and extremely distracting to see such an iconic character in this setting. And I must stress, this is not the actor’s fault. It’s the horrible writing. They have taken the Phantom, this wonderful complex character and simplified him to an almost insulting degree. Clearly the Phantom has not only taken some anger management classes (as one reviewer put it) but he’s also learning how to socialise as he’s constantly in the company of other people. I thought the Phantom was a reclusive genius, obsessed with composing music. But now he’s perfectly fine with running Coney Island and despairing over his lack of inspiration instead of sending threatening notes and causing chandeliers to crash during the curtain call.
So this isn’t the Phantom we left at the Paris Opera. Even his deformity is different! It’s not exactly subtle either; The Phantom doesn’t have the deformed lips and such like he did in the first one and as far as I know, plastic surgery didn’t exist in 1907.
I mean, I can understand the disfigurement being scaled back for the movie. We all know the film adaptation makeup looked entirely wrong and we rightly add it to our list of reasons to hate Joel Schumacher, but come on, this is a direct sequel and you actually redesigned the makeup? We very briefly see the new disfigurement in the London show, but in Australia, the unmaskings aren’t half as dramatic as the Phantom and you don’t see the gruesome deformity. Why hide it when we all saw it in Phantom? Stupid thing to do.
The Phantom is meant to be a secretive, complex character. And yes, Andrew Lloyd Webber, despite your ramblings that the Phantom is full of two-dimensional personalities, the Phantom is complicated. When a character can brutally murder two people in front of the audience and yet we still want to see him get the girl, there’s something special about him.
Why did they feel the need to change him so much? Well, the writers said they wanted the Phantom to have the qualities of love that he didn’t have in the first show.

Ok.

So you’re saying that the man whose unrequited love for Christine, and music, which was the focus of the first show, didn’t love? So what made him let both Christine and Raoul go in the end? What causes his redemption? Why do audiences love him so much? Why would we empathise with him, even though he does some terrible things, if he didn’t have the capacity to love? It just doesn’t add up.

As for Christine, she’s played by Sierra Boggess in London and Anna O’Byrne in Australia. Sierra Boggess is well-known on Broadway, having played Ariel in The Little Mermaid and Christine in the original Phantom on Broadway and Las Vegas as well as the 25th anniversary recording. When you see her onstage in the original, she encapsulates Christine’s naivety and gentleness, as well as showing the torment Christine is supposed to be going through. In Love Never Dies, she also does a very good job in terms of singing and acting. It’s clear that she’s passionate and talented, and takes her work very seriously.

Anna O’Byrne on the other hand just started her career and to be fair, she’s doing rather well. Her take on Christine is very warm and motherly rather than just innocent. Acting wise she wasn’t bad at all considering what she had to work with in the first place. She’s charming and on the whole, I enjoyed watching her. Her singing voice is quite lovely too. I look forward to seeing her on the stage in future.

Deconstructing actresses aside, let’s look at the character herself. In the original Christine is your classic ingénue. Gullible, naïve, sweet, beautiful. At face value, there isn’t much else to her but by the end of the show, she finally gets some courage and is able to stand up for herself, ultimately saving Raoul’s life and giving the Phantom the only real love he’s ever known. There’s actual character development. Even though she’s naïve, we can identify with her because we can see the grief she feels over her dead father and how the thought of him really sending the Angel Of Music to her is something she’d completely fall for. Also, she has a genuinely moving solo number, Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, sung at her father’s grave where the audience does see the pain she’s going through and how she’s afraid to let go of her gratitude to the Phantom since she feels it would be like abandoning her father’s memory. That’s a very sympathetic character trait and it’s something most people can empathise with.
In the sequel however, Christine is completely one dimensional and has gone back on everything we knew about her in the first show. There’s no mention of her father, she cheated on Raoul and can’t even work out who could possibly own Phantasma.

As for the poor actors forced to play Raoul, you have my eternal respect for going on every night. Please strike this production from your resumes. You honestly deserve better. Nobody should be made to have Raoul from Love Never Dies attached to their names.

And then you have Fleck, Squelch and Gangle, who…um….just assist the Phantom, I guess. Why he needs assistants at all, we’ll never know, because this acid trip will provide no explanation as to who these people are, where they came from, or if they even have personalities to speak of.
Squelch announces himself as the world’s strongest man. Great. Please show me how strong you are! Oh, you won’t? Just going to leave it at that? Ok. Gangle? Well, he just sort of stands there looking scary while Fleck bounces around. Why would you add these three MCs if they aren’t going to be established?

So essentially, the characters we knew and loved have been replaced by people who we’ll never get to know due to lack of development and characters like our three MCs, who could have been interesting or at the very least bearable, are tossed aside. And don’t give me the whole “people can change in ten years” argument. People can change but that doesn’t mean you can give them entirely new personalities.

~

Anyway, back to the story. Raoul is angry (of course) over discovering that Christine is working for the Phantom. Truthfully, I can’t blame him. But then off he goes to have a drink as Christine realises Gustave has gone. Wow, I wonder where he could possibly have got to?
We then see Fleck, Squelch and Gangle leading Gustave to meet “Mr. Y” for his promised tour of the island. The Phantom watches as Gustave plays a melody on the piano and realises “He plays like me….he’s just ten years old!”

* bang * Gustave plays the piano, he’s ten and he has dark hair. I do wonder where this will go. It’s throwing me on so many levels!

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I can’t imagine what cliche this is leading to. Can’t imagine at all.

Hello, electric guitars and rock music! This number is called The Beauty Underneath and in all fairness, it’s not a bad song aside from the terrible lyrics. The Phantom begins to show Gustave the wonders of his world, meaning exhibiting to him glass cases full of more circus freaks, asking “Do you find yourself beguiled by the dangerous and wild? Do you feed on the need for the beauty underneath?”

I get that it’s a circus but in the original, the Phantom seemed perfectly happy with a giant chair, an organ and a few candles, so what’s with the embellished surroundings?

While browsing through a grotesque gallery of contortionists, people with fingernails a mile long, skeleton horse things and midgets with misshapen heads, Gustave is enchanted. “It seems so beautiful. So strange yet beautiful, everything’s just as you say,”

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Take a shot whenever the word “beautiful” is said/sung. You’ll be blackout drunk by this point.

I’m sorry, WHAT TEN YEAR OLD IS THIS?!? Really, what little child could honestly look at a tattooed man with three eyes and say it’s beautiful? Who the heck wrote this? What, were they high?!? Do they have any idea how children think?
And just when you think this couldn’t get any more ridiculous, the Phantom, who is no longer a”loathsome gargoyle who burns in hell” decides to reveal ‘the beauty underneath’ to Gustave by taking off his mask. That’s right, the man who went ballistic if his mask was removed takes it off himself freely exposing his deformity. And this kid, who just called a mutilated attraction with extra limbs ‘beautiful’, screams in horror and runs away only to find Christine, who immediately comforts Gustave instead of smacking the little brat to kingdom come for running off.

Meg takes Gustave back to the hotel while the Phantom demands the truth. And he gets it. Yes, Gustave is his son. *bang bang bang bang bang*

jumping the shark

Forget jumping the shark. No, they’re going to freaking POLE VAULT OVER IT! This show is physically hurting me. You really had to sink to this level?!?
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they went here given the evidence so far. I hoped against hope. But no, we just had to have this tired cliché rear its bored head. Serves me right for thinking the writers had anything remotely resembling a brain.

Well, this does at the very least explain why they needed to have Christine go and find the Phantom before she got married, because their one night stand didn’t happen at any point in the original. It really didn’t.
Think about it: the only time it would ever have happened is the first time Christine went to the lair and we never saw it happen. Christine was asleep most of the time anyway! Furthermore, the rest of Act One is set the next day or at the most two days later, the second act takes place six months later and Christine clearly isn’t pregnant at the masquerade ball. I also pointed out above how the Phantom is blatantly obvious that he hasn’t and would do something like that, so this still makes no sense. At all!
And how does Christine know that the Phantom is Gustave’s father? Their one night stand was the night before her wedding and we all know what happens on the wedding night. Gustave could easily be Raoul’s. He could’ve inherited his musical prowess from Christine. We’re just expected to agree the Phantom is the father, ignoring all evidence because the kid’s ten years old. That’s really the extent of the evidence. I hate this show so much.
But all reasonings aside, it appears the Phantom and Christine did in fact have a child together. Despite all the evidence from the first show, this has still happened. They’ve jumped the shark, gone past the point of no return*, it’s all over, there’s no way this is going to be salvaged.

Love Never Dies, you are officially dead to me.

PONO

*See, Love Never Dies? I can make unnecessary references too!

To close Act One, Christine promises to sing at Phantasma before she leaves for good and swears to the Phantom that she will never tell Gustave the truth. The Phantom then decides to leave everything he owns to Gustave.
Madame Giry then appears from the shadows, having overheard everything. I would point out that it should be the Phantom who appears from the shadows having overheard everything but I think most people who cared about the original knew that already.

Giry is most displeased at this development, feeling all the years she and Meg helped the Phantom are for nothing. She sings about how she and Meg will be left destitute and are being tossed aside. She reminds the audience three times that it’s been ten years since the original and shrieks how it’s all Gustave’s fault.

Yet another element that makes no sense. Why are they making Madame Giry the villain? Seriously, there’s no reason for it. In the original show, like I said earlier, she’s mysterious and forbidding. As for helping the Phantom, the most we ever saw her do, apart from being the ballet teacher at the Paris Opera, is deliver the Phantom’s notes, give a few warnings and reveal some background information about the latter. So why are they trying to portray her as the wronged party who just wants her reward? I don’t get it, and I’m sure most fans of the original don’t either. In the original, Madame Giry constantly tries to save lives by warning people not to anger the Phantom and she shows Raoul the way to the underground lair so he can save Christine at the end. I seriously don’t buy that she now stands here verbally bashing the other characters, wallowing in self pity and blaming a ten year old child for circumstances beyond his control.

“All would be ours if that bastard had never been born!”

Great, lady. Real classy. Lovely lead in to the intermission there. (And is this really what they consider an appropriate ending to an act?)

TO BE CONTINUED…..

Love Never Dies is Dead to Me, Part 1

This is it. The big one. The worst musical I know of existing in past, present and future dimensions. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s pet project and the sequel to one of my favourite musicals ever, Love Never Dies.
Oh, there’s plenty of musicals and even musical sequels out there that could probably be considered worse on a technical level, such as Shock Treatment (sequel to Rocky Horror) or Bring Back Birdie (sequel to Bye Bye Birdie) which only ran for 20 performances combined. But in my whole life and throughout my entire devotion to musical theatre, no other theatrical experience has made me so desperately unhappy and caused so much rage in me at the lack of creativity, intelligence and worst of all, being so utterly insulting to not only the audience who paid to see this abomination, but to the original show and to theatre in general. Oh yes, I went there. That’s how much I hate this musical. 

Love Never Dies (LND) is a special kind of awful. It’s so utterly terrible and so irredeemable that even the things about the show that are less-than-terrible, dare I even say, good (I will always give credit where credit is due) , only makes me angrier since the “good” aspects serve to highlight how dreadful the show is as a whole. 

I initially wrote the following rant in 2012 for my own relief or I may simply have disintegrated into ashes from unexpressed anger. It’s 12, 085 words long, therefore I shall be presenting it in parts. Take a deep breath, and let us begin with Part 1…..

LOVE NEVER DIES IS DEAD TO ME

I wandered around the ABC shop at Westfields Parramatta, in search of the elusive CD my mother had recommended I take a look at. It was nowhere to be seen, but my eye caught sight of the DVD shelf, specifically, the 10th Anniversary recording of Les Miserables.‬ Breathtaking music, staging you had to see to believe. If only it would come back to Australia…..

I was quite happy to admire it, place the DVD back and leave when my (then) boyfriend laughed and pointed at another case.‬
“Look, it’s your favourite musical,” he said. I narrowed my eyes at the sight. Love Never Dies. “Ugh, no way. Die, die, die!”‬
Without warning, a voice rang out. “What?!? How can you not love it? It’s a masterpiece!”

I shall spare you the boredom of a verbatim recap of my following encounter with an Andrew Lloyd Webber fanboy who had nothing but scorn for my contrasting opinion and was prepared to keep up his irrefutable argument of It’s a masterpiece! until one of us died. Not wanting to argue with a complete stranger over something so mundane, I simply told him he was quite within his rights to like it and it wasn’t for me before leaving.‬

I came away completely dumbfounded. How could people not see the sheer stupidity of this show? Why didn’t anyone seem to realise that it was a ridiculous sequel to a story that didn’t need one? That was it. Enough was enough. It was time for me to have my two cents.‬

For the record, ‪I’m studying music theatre at university, so yes, I do know what I’m talking about. I love musicals. They are my life. It’s what I want to do, and I rarely get a thrill like I do when sitting in the stalls, staring at live performers singing their hearts out and praying that one day I’ll do the same.‬

Except when it came to Love Never Dies. It seemed like everyone in my department at university had seen it and they were all raving about how spectacular it was. Everyone was telling me to see it. I staunchly refused, and when I finally thought about throwing in the towel, I couldn’t get tickets. And how could I when every man and his easily-entertained dog was flocking to the Capitol Theatre to “ooh” and “ahh” and the latest 2D firework’s display to hit the stage? So there. I haven’t seen it on the stage, I’ve seen the DVD and that’s that. I was willing to check it out, but I repeat, I couldn’t get tickets.‬
I can just hear all the whining from my computer desk:
You can’t judge a show you’ve never seen!
It’s an experience, you have to be there to fully appreciate it!
And yes, that’s right to a point. Seeing a show live is not something you can capture 100% on the screen. Yes, I do sort of wish I’d been able to see it but as to judging it negatively, you know what? Sometimes, you just know you won’t like something. Why didn’t you see that new movie that’s just been released? Because it wasn’t your kind of movie and you know you wouldn’t like it. It’s the same reason you didn’t try the new sweet chilli milkshake at McDonalds. You knew it wasn’t worth it. Get the idea?‬

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Truer words were never spoken

The show was incredibly popular in Australia, it was sold out every session, it was only running for twelve weeks and do I even need to mention how expensive theatre tickets are? The bottom line is, I couldn’t see it.‬ And trust me, seeing it live will NOT make me like this trainwreck. 

 I know people who loathe Phantom of the Opera but I am not one of them. I’ve read the original novel by Gaston Leroux. I have every song from the musical on my iPod, and several other covers of the most famous tracks. I have the original libretto, two show programmes and the sheet music to 6 of the songs. I sang Think of Me at 16 for a recital. I saw the show twice in 2008 on the Australian tour. I own the 2004 movie (which is not very good) and the 25th anniversary DVD. I know the entire show by heart. So yes, I am probably a little biased. ‬ And I am by no means an Andrew Lloyd Webber purist. He might be the pinnacle of perfection to some, but to me, his work is very hit-and-miss. Phantom and even a few of his individual songs like Tell Me On A Sunday I really enjoy. Evita isn’t bad. Sunset Boulevard has it’s moments.
Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat? Hate them.‬

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Thank you Mr Grinch.

Twenty six years after opening night, Phantom of the Opera is still playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End to packed houses. It’s never left Broadway and it’s toured throughout the world. It’s been seen by over 130 million people and is showing no signs of slowing down. People can’t get enough of it. ‬

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Those who have seen the sequel draw back in fear

In stark contrast, Love Never Dies opened on the West End in March 2010. It closed for four days in November of that year for significant rewrites and a new director. It closed August 2011. The Broadway production is on hold indefinitely.‬ (Edit: as of 2018, there is STILL no word on a Broadway production!)

As we know, a re-vamped production opened in Melbourne, Australia and received much more favourable reviews. My refusal to like it led me to a lot of incredulous looks and several ‘I’m not speaking to you’ comments. Since I couldn’t get tickets for the live show, I forced myself to watch the DVD, so I would have some form of credibility when I mercilessly bashed it. And let me tell you folks, it didn’t disappoint. My feelings towards the story of Love Never Dies can only be described as falling off my scale of hatred into the darkest void of dispassionate loathing.‬
But on with the rant. What does the composer himself have to say about what many call a crime against the art form?‬

“I’ve often thought,” says Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, “That we left the original Phantom with a little bit of a cliffhanger. And I thought, why not do a sequel to it at some point?”‬
I can think of many reasons why not. And furthermore, you didn’t leave it on a cliffhanger. Ask any audience member and they will tell you that the original ended perfectly and there was no need for a sequel.‬
Webber has been heard to call the original Phantom the “biggest piece of hokum ever written,” Going to have to disagree with you there, Mr. Webber. As shown above, a production that runs in the exact same theatre it opened in for 25 years and rakes in over $5 billion worldwide is doing something right. ‬
In addition, Webber has stated that Love Never Dies is a standalone piece with the same characters. When people refused to buy this ridiculous statement, he admitted it is a sequel but you don’t need to have seen the original to understand the story. That’s ok though, because the story makes no sense either way. And again, given the statistics I mentioned above, it appears most people have seen the original already. So there goes that argument.‬
Webber has apparently worked on this sequel since 1990 after reading the novel The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth which the sequel is based on. He wrote the book (script) with the help of lyricist Glen Slater and renowned British writer Ben Elton.‬
Webber also says he feels Love Never Dies is more three-dimensional in terms of the characters. Again, I don’t particularly agree. I can’t stand what they’ve done with the main characters and I know many others hate it too, but I’ll get to them later.‬
Andrew Lloyd Webber has made no secret of his disdain for those against his beloved sequel, saying “There’s a whole sad culture around the world of people who seem to only live by the old Phantom of the Opera.” That’s right, the theatregoers who have embraced this man’s work, not to mention kept his bank account above seven figures for all this time are apparently ‘sad’ because they don’t care for this ludicrous sequel.‬

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There are no words

It doesn’t take a genius to realise how insulting his last comment is. Are we not allowed to have opinions now, Mr Webber? People who don’t like the show aren’t trying to sabotage it from within; they simply want to have their say. Is he going to keep insisting that all the fans wanted a sequel even though they clearly didn’t? The ‘long awaited sequel’? Who was waiting for it? I know I certainly wasn’t. When I saw the original show, nobody came out saying “I can’t wait for a follow up, I wonder what will happen next!” ‬

Sadly, a follow up has now been made and I am subsequently going to review it. Why would I do that when everyone’s criticised it already?‬

Well, I have a couple of reasons. One, because I want to have my say despite others already having their own. Two, because it seems most people in Australia loved it. And three, because I’m a glutton for punishment.‬
Now, before I go on, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: if you like Love Never Dies, that’s great. More power to you. It’s great to see people go to the theatre. I don’t think this production is a particularly helpful show to see, but still, the principle. Just remember, this is strictly opinion based. So don’t go crazy if you don’t agree.

With that said, for what it’s worth here’s my review of Love Never Dies.‬

Act One

So the show opens in 1907. Oh, did I mention that it takes place ten years after the first show? Never mind that the original took place in 1881. I’m no maths expert but I’d go out on a limb and say that figure is more like 26 years but no, it’s ten years and ten years only. And how do I know this? Because from the opening line, they’ll have no problem telling you over and over and over. Heck, the fourth musical number is titled Ten Long Years. And practically every scene a character casually mentions the lapse in time, sometimes more than once every sentence.

Another thing, the Prologue to Phantom takes place in 1911 when Raoul is seventy, according to the libretto. I had some LND fans try to convince me that timelines don’t matter. Yes, they do, because Raoul cannot go from his early thirties (at most!) to seventy in a few years. It’s simple logic! Something that you’ll find has no place here!

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This is compared to the train wreck 2004 film, but you get the idea.

Wait a second, the prologue tells us that a mysterious fire consumed the Paris Opera House in…1895! Well, there’s one plot hole they walked right into. And what fire is this? We never saw a fire, we just saw the mask left behind.
Ten seconds into the show and already there’s three plot holes.
Anyway, instead of the Paris Opera House, or even in Europe, the show is set in America, on Coney Island to be precise. Because when you think Phantom of the Opera, you think Coney Island. We see the Phantom, who now owns the circus known as Phantasma, still brooding over Christine, and how he longs to hear her sing again.

We…see…the Phantom…as the opening?

Of course anyone who cares about the original will know that part of the strength of this wonderful character is the mystery surrounding him. He doesn’t make an appearance until at least twenty five minutes into the first act and half of his lines are voiceovers. But the Phantom still has a haunting presence at all times. You know he’s always lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike. But not here. He’s the first thing you see.

I actually put a pillow on my desk in case I needed to bang my head. The need begins here.
* bang * The first of many facedesks.

The scene cuts to the Coney Island Waltz. And by ‘waltz’ I mean a generic bland tune plays while three creepy MCs welcome the audience to Coney Island. Equally creepy ensemble members surrounded by neon lights flit about the stage in harlequin costumes on a set that is very impressive, but also looks like it belongs in a Tim Burton film rather than The Phantom of the Opera.

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Witness the money being burned before your eyes

During this opening we see a shameless replica of the monkey music box while the Phantom, who used to hide out of sight underneath an opera house, stands in full view on top of the circus tent.

I should also mention that the first show had prima donnas, hapless managers and ballet dancers. But not anymore. No, no, no. Here we have the aforementioned MCs, known as Fleck, who kind of looks like Harley Quinn’s vertically challenged cousin, Squelch the scary sad clown and Gangle, who reminds me of Timothy Mouse from Dumbo if you made him human and gave him the personality of a lobotomised Mad Hatter.

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This is all the character development they’ll get. Great.

They’re the Phantom’s protégés, because you know, after Christine, I guess he needed three. They introduce the main showgirl who turns out to be none other than Meg Giry, the sweet ballet dancer friend of Christine from the original who sang the lovely Angel Of Music.

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Personality Transplant Exhibit A

Except she’s now a vaudeville stripper, or to use the correct headache-inducing terminology, the “Ooh-La-La Girl”. Yes, that’s right. Meg Giry, the girl who got a few lines in the original, sang one duet and is the last character we see on stage as the show closes, is now a vaudeville dancer with an irritating voice and singing some of the worst lyrics ever written for a musical. “We’ve a remedy for all who feel a frown. We won’t bite you, we’ll delight you, we invite you to succumb…”
Don’t worry, you’ll never remember the music.

Meg, it turns out, is hoping the Phantom will see her potential and turn her into a star. Because heaven knows, being the star attraction at Phantasma isn’t enough. We then see Meg’s mother, Madame Giry, backstage. Madame Giry is another of the most interesting characters from Phantom because she too, is shrouded in mystery. She never changes costumes and it’s obvious that she knows some things about the Phantom but we never know exactly how much. Every time she’s on stage in the original, she commands attention. We all enjoyed watching her. Here, I just want to smack her. I hate the miserable temperament she suddenly has and the way she blames everyone for her lot in life (that she chose! Not once did the Phantom force her to be his courier!).

Madame Giry tells Meg that Christine Daae is coming to sing at Oscar Hammerstein’s new theatre. Wait a minute! Oscar Hammerstein? The lyricist most famous for his partnership with Richard Rogers? What the heck?!?
First of all, Oscar Hammerstein II was born in 1895, making him 12 at this point. So they must be referring to his grandfather, Oscar Hammerstein I, who was a theatre owner. Fair enough, but there’s just one problem. How is the audience meant to know all this? Because when people hear the name Hammerstein, they’re going to think Carousel, and The Sound of Music.
But I digress. Madame Giry sings about how she and Meg helped the Phantom escape from Paris, and that she highly resents Christine now.  “Where was she when the lawmen hounded him?”
Where was Christine? I may be able to enlighten you. After being taken against her will to the labyrinth by the Phantom, she was escaping with Raoul just like the Phantom told her to. Stop trying to turn us against her!

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Remember this scene?!?

The next day, Christine, along with her husband Raoul and ten year old son Gustave have arrived at Coney Island to see scores of paparazzi waiting for them. Even though Christine is meant to be singing in Manhattan, she’s arrived two weeks early and Gustave wants to go to Coney Island and learn how to swim. Fleck, Squelch and Gangle come to take them to Coney Island and Gustave, rather than run screaming in fear from these strange people, is the first to jump in the carriage and sings about how excited he is to see the sights.
However, Raoul is not happy about the situation he finds himself in, throwing a minor tantrum, insulting everything under the sun and refusing to play with Gustave because I guess in between musicals he underwent a personality transplant.

If you saw Phantom then you’ll know that Raoul was a handsome, charming aristocrat who fought to protect Christine from the Phantom’s obsession because of his undying love for her. While not the most fascinating character, there’s a lot to admire in Raoul and it makes the story that much more compelling. In Love Never Dies, to create a further sense of irony in the title, Raoul is now a drunken loser who does not love Christine as he once did and is deep in debt due to an unexplained gambling habit. He’s also an abusive father and husband prone to infantile fits of anger and the actor playing him must have to shove his dignity in his back pocket every night. “Who would believe we’ve sunk this low?” Raoul sings.
I don’t know Raoul. I don’t know.

Don’t get me wrong here, I know EXACTLY why they changed Raoul’s character to this completely unlikeable twit. If you’re going to have a sequel, obviously the audience has to hate Raoul and want Christine to end up with the Phantom, (completely undoing the entire point of Phantom) so you have to get Raoul out of the picture. It’s a reason. But that doesn’t mean it makes any sense whatsoever.

Since when does Raoul drink excessively? And a gambling habit? Hello, I’m the audience, you want to fill us in on how and why he changed like this? The only explanation I can come up with is post-traumatic stress from almost being murdered in the first show, but even that’s pushing it a touch.

Raoul receives a note from “Hammerstein” asking for a rendezvous at the hotel bar. Wow….I wonder who could possibly have sent that note? Could it be the person who spent most of the last show communicating through notes?
After Raoul leaves, Christine has a rather touching moment with her son, singing about love while he plays with a music box given to him by the circus freaks (Oho, I see what you did there, show!) which plays a tune from the original show. Sure it’s not a sequel Mr. Webber. You just recycled the superior melodies for fun then?
While I can see that they’re trying to tie the scores together, it backfires unbelievably because
a) hearing these tunes only serves to highlight how poor the new score is and
b) It just makes me wish I was watching the original even more.

Gustave goes to bed leaving the music box to play Little Lotte. The music swells ominously making it obvious what’s about to happen….you guessed it, the doors swing dramatically open, revealing the Phantom to Christine who dramatically collapses on the floor. She comes around a few seconds later completely able to shout at the Phantom for coming back into her life.

* Now, the lyrics to this next song, Beneath a Moonless Sky, were slightly rewritten in Australia but I really must point out the woeful exposition from the London production. “I should have known that you’d be here.”
* bang *

shouldhave known
Well yes. Yes you should have Christine. An anonymous impresario calling himself Mr Y. invites you to sing at a place called Phantasma and you have no idea who it could possibly be?!?!?! REALLY?!? Really, Christine? Look, honey, I know you weren’t always the brightest bulb in the socket (you thought a guy in a mask was the Angel of Music) but I never thought you’d be this dim. Seriously, you know what this guy is capable of. You should be able to spot this from across the freaking universe! *

“If you could know the pain I’ve known, then you would know I had no choice…My Christine…”

I’d call this contrived, but that’s putting it mildly. In the final scene of Phantom, the Phantom tells Christine “Forget me, forget all of this….forget all you’ve seen,” But no, he was so desperate to have her back that he had to orchestrate a genius plan. “I was yours one brief night long ago,” Christine retorts.

What? WHAT?!?!? You’re actually….you’re really….you….WHAT????

* bang bang bang bang *

NO.jpg

No no no no no no no! NO! This can’t be real, it can’t be! You’re not actually serious! Nothing could possibly be this stupid!

“I won’t regret, from now until I die, that night, I can’t forget beneath a moonless sky,”

No, ladies and gentlemen, this is not a joke. Christine, it turns out, went to find the Phantom the night before she married Raoul and yes, they went all the way.

alice-face-palm-featured

Ok. Right. I see. Just give me a second to react accordingly…. * bang bang bang bang bang *
THIS IS THE MOST IDIOTIC TWIST EVER!

Never mind that in the original the Phantom says his deformity denied him ‘the joys of the flesh’ and he makes it very clear that he would never do anything to Christine. No, we need to forget about all that. This is what we all wanted. We wanted the Phantom to get the girl. It’s just wish fulfilment, right?!?
Before we can ask why they didn’t stay together, it’s explained that the Phantom left early in the morning because, get this, he was worried about Christine’s reaction to his face.
* bang *
Do I even have to tell you that she spends the last 15 minutes of the original show looking at his unmasked face? Should I remind everyone that she says “This haunted face holds no horror for me now?” Must I also make it incredibly obvious that if Christine is willing to…somehow go out and find him the night before she gets hitched, it’s pretty clear that she’s comfortable with the way he looks?!?

Congratulations, LNDl! 30 minutes in, and you’ve jumped the shark. I’m just going to go and cry over this horrendously insulting plot device…..

TO BE CONTINUED……

Welcome to my blog!

I’m an Australian actress, singer and writer. I love everything about musical theatre and musical movies. But anyone who knows me knows this: I’m opinionated and I can rant and rave like no tomorrow. So this is a way of not only discussing my views on the one subject I am truly passionate about, but also a way of saving multiple people a long monologue about why I like or dislike a show/film.

I welcome commenting and intelligent debate, so let’s get started and I hope you all enjoy my writings!