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Love Never Dies - Adelphi Theatre (review)

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

BY HIS own admission, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical, Love Never Dies, was “in gestation, on and off, for 20 years”. That’s a long time. Now, however, the story of The Phantom and Christine, which began in The Phantom of the Opera, continues at the Adelphi Theatre where, if Friday night’s response is anything to go by, it’s clearly delighting audiences.

Not simply a sequel to the original but “a completely stand alone piece”, Love Never Dies picks up the story 10 years after The Phantom (Ramin Karimloo) mysteriously disappeared from his lair beneath the Paris Opera House.

Now living on New York’s Coney Island, The Phantom has made a name for himself among the freaks and oddities of the Phantasma fairground. And it’s all thanks to the redoubtable Madame Giry (Liz Robertson), whose daughter Meg (Summer Strallen) wants nothing more than to impress the tormented genius her mother rescued a decade earlier.

However, the Phantom still yearns for Christine and anonymously invites her to sing at Phantasma. Although now retired, she accepts but only because she and Raoul (Joseph Millson), to whom she is now married, need the money.

And it’s here that the happy-ever-after ending of the original is blown sky high, for the dashing Raoul who so chivalrously rescued Christine from the clutches of a monster, has become a gambler and a drinker. Moreover, it’s painfully obvious that the marriage is no longer a happy one.

And so Christine arrives in New York with her husband and 10 year-old son, Gustav (and here there’s a clue to plot development)…

As The Phantom, Karimloo is superb – by turn angry, menacing, desolate and despairing. And he has a voice to die for. His rendition of ‘Til I Hear You Sing is heart-rendingly beautiful and sets the tone for his entire performance; one that earned him a well-deserved standing ovation.

Christine – on Friday, July 16, 2010, played by understudy Celia Graham – has matured with age. No longer a hesitant and fearful girl, she’s a beautiful and confident woman.

Sadly, the chemistry between Christine and The Phantom so obvious in the original (and in the Joel Schumacher film especially so), is non-existent; Graham’s Christine more Ice Queen than a woman torn apart by her emotions. Graham does, however, have an enchanting voice.

With her trademark high kicks and winsome smile, Strallen is well-suited to the role of Meg whose vaudeville life-style presents her with ample opportunity to show off both; while Millson evokes both pity and scorn as a man who’s in very real danger of letting the woman he loves slip from his grasp.

For the most part, the story is told through Lloyd Webber’s music and Glenn Slater’s lyrics. With three notable exceptions – the aforementioned ‘Til I Hear You Sing, Beneath A Moonless Sky and the title song – the numbers are not instantly memorable. Even so, they deserve to be given a second chance and not simply dismissed as inconsequential.

And yes, you might well have heard Love Never Dies before because the chorus of the melody featured in another Lloyd Webber musical, The Beautiful Game. However, it was originally written for the Phantom sequel and sung by Kiri Te Kanawa as The Heart Is Slow To Learn.

Without a doubt, Lloyd Webber knows how to put on a show. Bob Crowley’s set design is both lavish (particularly in regards to the bizarre world inhabited by The Phantom) and restrained (as the story dictates) and his costumes exquisite. Moreover, Paule Constable’s lighting shows both to perfection.

Special mention must also go to Jon Driscoll’s projection design, which adds a whole new dimension. No detail is too small as the carriage ride across Brooklyn Bridge illustrates only too well.

Time alone will tell if Love Never Dies has the staying power of the original. For the moment, it certainly has much to commend it. More importantly, it entertains and, in so doing, transports the audience into a fantasy world. And that I believe, is exactly what musicals are supposed to do.

Read more about Love Never Dies

  1. Phantom Needs NO Sequel!
    Webber’s sequel to Phantom – LOVE NEVER DIES – destroys the characters and the original story written by Gaston Leroux. Theatre critics disliked the show from the beginning, many giving it less than 3 stars. Audience members have called the show “Paint Never Dries”…and for a very good reason. LOVE SHOULD DIE!

    Love Should Die    Jul 19    #