As promised in my review of the first version, I made the journey to the Adelphi theatre to see “version 2” of Love Never Dies this week. This theatre visit jumped to the top of my list due to the fact that it is closing on August 27th. This is a show that’s had a very interesting journey and the story of its ups and downs could be the subject for a musical in its own right.
As mentioned in my previous review, I enjoyed version 1, despite its faults. On reading reviews of version 2 since it came into being last November, most have said the changes were positive. A few have bemoaned them. I was keen to make my own mind up.
The first change was in the performers, this was a different cast mainly. Tam Mutu was the Phantom and he excelled. I was wondering if he’d be able to reach the heights Ramin Karimloo set, he did. The most striking and obvious change is moving “‘Till I Hear You Sing” to the beginning of the show. As I said in my first review I LOVE this song. It sits much better here as the opener, and it sent tingles down my neck hearing it live with the thundering orchestration. A great start to the show.
Then it was into some of Jon Driscoll’s clever animations which I was glad have been used throughout the show still as these are one of the highlights of the production.
The biggest difference I noticed was the change to the lyrics, Charles Harts influence is obvious (why oh why didn’t Lloyd Webber get him in from day one??). They’re no longer as clunky and clichéd as they were in the earlier version. They also help to tell the story better than before, and there has been a judicious cutting and recasting who sings what which definitely worked.
Seeing Lucy Van Gasse as Christine again was a real highlight, as mentioned in my previous review I thought her performance was something special, 8 months later it still is. Her voice is perfect for this role and she fills the theatre during her solo of “Love Never Dies”.
The ending has been changed, its not been changed to how I’d have done it, but it is now MUCH better and feels more in keeping with the characters and story. One member of the audience near me was reduced to tears by it, and whilst I wasn’t blubbing away it is certainly is a tragic and emotional ending.
So on second viewing any other thoughts from me?? I still think the score is excellent, it’s beautiful in places (Coney Island Waltz and The Ayrie especially) it’s a lavish and sumptuous score. There are now many more motifs and bits of the original Phantom score woven into this one now, which worked and gave a sense of this being an extension of that show.
It still contains the song “The Beauty Underneath”, which despite being referenced earlier in Act 1 still sticks out like a sore thumb, but in a perverse way I quite like this incongruous element to the show now!
I was VERY surprised to see this advert in this weeks Time Out :
In the run up to the launch, ALW repeatedly said that LND is a stand alone show, that’s it’s not a sequel! Which always seemed a bit silly and odd. Now it seems he does want to trade-off the success of Phantom, perhaps he should have done this all along?
So, there’s just over 4 more weeks left of LND in the West End. I’ve enjoyed both versions and do think the revised one is better. If I had the time, I’d visit it again before it closes as I think the score is one of ALW’s best. If you enjoyed Phantom, you’ll enjoy this, or if you like musical theatre I think you’ll appreciate it too.
It’s a shame it’s had such a turbulent existence, ALW has in recent interviews said he should have halted the production going ahead while he was ill, and I’d have to agree. Although I’m surprised they got so much wrong to begin with. It just shows that nothing in theatre is certain.
The Melbourne production is getting good reviews, with ALW saying this is the definitive version. It’s currently being filmed for a dvd release, so that’ll go on my pre-order from Amazon list as soon as I’m notified of its release date.
Will it ever go to Broadway though? That is the question. There seems to be much speculation about that and no answers from ALW as of yet. I think it deserves to go, it won’t run for decades like Phantom, but it’ll certainly have 12 – 18 months worth of life there as it did in the West End. I’ll be interesting to see if it tours the UK, but with Bill Kenwright brought in for version 2, I’m sure those discussions have or will take place.
I’ve really enjoyed seeing and watching the progress of this show, its time in the West End is coming to an end, but it’ll continue a good while longer elsewhere in the world, it’s no Phantom of the Opera, but it’s not the dud many have wanted to make it either. If it comes your way, have a visit and make you’re own mind up. I’m glad I did.