I posted earlier this year when Love Never Dies opened and said then that I’d see it in a “few months time”, well I finally got the chance yesterday, so what did I think????
It’s had a huge amount of attention and comment made, both in the theatrical press and also the blogosphere. I’ll be honest I went with a bit of trepidation. I’m a HUGE Phantom of the Opera fan, I think it’s one of the best musicals ever, and to me it ticks all the right boxes, story, score, spectacle. Would Love Never Dies, build on that or simply be a bit of a damp squib in comparison to the original in my mind?
I bought the soundtrack to Love Never Dies in the summer as I was keen to hear it as I liked the title song and “‘Til I Hear You Sing Again.”. I’ve never bought a soundtrack prior to seeing a show, but it certainly gave me a familiarity with the score before seeing it. I’m not sure I’d buy a soundtrack prior to seeing a show again though, as I had a load of pre-conceptions in my imagination to how I “saw” the show.
I’m aware that many changes have been made to it since opening and that they are in fact closing the show for four days later this month to implement further changes. Having seen “Mark 1”, I’m intrigued to find out what they decide to change.
The score itself has some wonderful moments, the opening Coney Island Waltz, really is beautiful and the visuals created on stage are breathtakingly wonderful. “‘Til I Hear You Sing”, is certainly the song of Act 1 for me, although “Look with Your Heart”, is a charming and sweet song, that seeing live I appreciated more than I originally had on the CD. There is an incongruous song in Act one, “The Beauty Underneath”, which when I heard it originally on my iPod, I thought I’d downloaded a rogue song! Seeing it in the show did little for me, and I still feel it needs changing as it really doesn’t fit in. It’s a good song, and frustratingly gets wedged in one’s mind, but it sticks out like a sore thumb.
Act II, I felt worked much better, the orchestras overture set the scene perfectly and it seemed to flow better than Act I. “Love Never Dies” is definitely the song of this act and it was sensational to hear this performed live.
The entire cast was excellent, but special mention must got to;
Ramin Karimloo was perfect as The Phantom, he played him with just the right amount of menace and sense of “tortured genius”. His voice is also amazing and this score shows that off. It’s easy to see why Andrew Lloyd Webber wanted him to perform the title role. He’s definitely made it his own and has set the standard for all who follow in his shoes for this show. I know I keep harping on about it but “‘Til I Hear You Sing”, is for me THE song of the show, and Ramin Karimloo’s performance yesterday, took my breath away.
We were fortunate to see it with Lucy Van Gasse playing the part of Christine Daaé. WOW, WOW, WOW, she was brilliant. she filled the whole theatre with her soaring voice. Yet the gentleness and tenderness of Christine came to the fore as and when required. Her performance of Love Never Dies is without doubt one of the highlights of the show.
Summer Strallen was gloriously radiant as Meg Giry, she had some great fun numbers, her quick changes during “Bathing Beauty”, were executed superbly and her beaming smile throughout her numbers was infectious. She was clearly loving this role and we caught that vibe. Her character has perhaps the longest journey of them all and as the show comes to its conclusion we see the price she’s paid. Ms Strallen showed us this journey with magnificent skill.
The general feedback from people seems to be that the story is the big let down of the show, and while I don’t think it’s the shows strong point , it’s not as awful as many make out and certainly no more predictable that 90% of other musicals. As I’ve said before on this blog, if you’re going to a musical expecting a deep complicated storyline, that’s probably a false expectation. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more humour in it, especially as Ben Elton is one of the writers.
As with any production of this scale it’s a huge team of people who help it come together. Jon Driscoll’s outstanding projections really must be mentioned. These are incredible and add so much to the show. The first scene’s projection is amazing and if you have any interest in theatrical effects or where modern technology is taking the art form, go and see this and pay close attention to his projection. I was also keen to see what Scott Penrose had contributed from a “special effects” point of view. His illusions and handiwork were used throughout and added to the overall magical nature of Coney Island and The Phantoms lair.
It’s a spectacular show both visually and musically, hearing a full orchestra and cast perform the score was much better than on CD, and visually it’s an orgy of effects and visuals that are staggering. Here’s a few tasters;
If you’re a fan of Phantom, Lloyd Webber or musical theatre I’m confident you’ll like and enjoy this production, it’s certainly not as bad as many are reporting, admittedly it’s had a good six months to bed down, but that’s to be expected, it’s foolish to think a show of this scale is going to be perfect on the first few previews! It will be very exciting to see what changes are made at the end of this month, rumour has it that the ending may change and that Charles Hart (lyricist from original Phantom) will be helping to re-write the lyrics. I’m glad I got to see “Mark 1” and look forward to seeing “Mark 2”. Personally the ending does need changing and Raoul needs to be changed as he’s a complete wimp currently!
Overall this ticks most of my boxes and I had an enjoyable time watching and experiencing this show and seeing how the Phantom story continued. I’m curious to hear others opinions on what they thought so please feel free to add comments. Once I’ve seen the updated version I’ll add a review.