Love Never Dies is a triumph!
From the first time the curtain raises onto the eerie vacant, never-ending Coney Island boardwalk to the Phantom’s lair, The Aerie, the incredible set design by Bob Crowley achieves epic greatness. The way he infuses the video clips over the scrim during the scene changes, Love Never Dies graces the edge of cinema while still being completely theatrical. In the same fashion of The Phantom of the Opera, Crowley was able to create a world within a world (real world vs. the Phantom’s world) that doesn’t overdo the bursting melodramatic sentiment of the story and music. It’s seamless and simply stunning.
The story based off of the novella, The Phantom of Manhattan, seems hokey and cheesy and yet it isn’t. It’s definitely melodramatic, but we all knew that it was going to be when we bought our tickets. An anonymous benefactor (the Phantom) invites Christine to Coney Island to perform a new aria, “Love Never Dies” at Phantasma. She agrees and takes Raoul, her husband and her child, Gustave (the only new principal character introduced in Love Never Dies) to Coney Island. Once there, she finds out that it was the Phantom that invited her and once again, she’s overtaken by his music. Also, Gustave is curiously interested in the Phantom’s lair and it becomes obvious in “The Beauty Underneath” (one of my favorite numbers of the night) that Gustave is really the Phantom’s child. And, from there, Raoul, Meg Giry and Madame Giry work through depression, jealousy and resentment, while Christine is rediscovering her feelings for the Phantom.
Andrew Lloyd Weber’s music and Glenn Slater’s lyrics were perfectly crafted to evoke the exact moods of the story. From the boisterous company number, “Heaven by the Sea” introducing Coney Island to the beautiful yearning of “Til I Hear You Sing” sung by the Phantom (Ramin Karimloo) to the electric duet between Gustave and Phantom in “The Beauty Underneath”, there never was a dull moment in the score. It absolutely came to a climax when Christine (Sierra Boggess) sang her beautiful heart-felt aria, “Love Never Dies” at the end of Act 2. Most of the evening I had chills – a complete rarity. Both Karmiloo and Boggess were fantastic throughout the entire night – every note and glance perfected. Gustave (there are seven of them) was extraordinary for such a young performer!
What surprised me the most was the fact I never was bored. The story intrigued me so much that I was on the edge of my seat most of the evening. I was swept away by the lush orchestral arrangements and theatricality of the production. Everything seemed to fit so well together. I’m sure there have been major and minor revisions since starting previews back in February. The current product is a beautiful production that should not be missed.
I love the fact that Andrew Lloyd Weber lets us fall in love with Christine and the Phantom all over again in a way that doesn’t tarnish the original. Love Never Dies triumphs over bad press, the “musical sequel” land of doom (like Grease 2 and Annie 2) and the very vocal naysayers (Love Should Die) with such grace that I’m actually embarrassed for them. Broadway should open their arms to Love Never Dies and embrace it!
If you loved Phantom of the Opera, I promise you’ll fall in love all over again with Love Never Dies.