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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Love Never Dies
Adelphi Theatre    March 2010 - August 2011

O.K. What you want to know is whether Andrew Lloyd Webber's long-awaited sequel to The Phantom of the Opera is as great as the original.

Well, perhaps not quite - what could be? - but it is pretty darned good.

Fans of the original will not be disappointed. They will, however, have to accept some significant rewriting of the myth.

In this version - book credited to Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton (who evidently suggested the myth tampering), with additions by Frederick Forsyth and lyricist Glenn Slater - Christine ran back to the Phantom for a night of passion before marrying Raoul. Ten years have passed, and the Phantom has moved to New York and become an impresario at a Coney Island fun fair.

He books Christine to perform there, a booking she has to take because Raoul has become a gambler and drunk, leaving them deep in debt. Two other old friends, Madame Giry and her daughter Meg, are also around, older but not necessarily wiser. Oh, and Christine has an almost-ten-year-old son....

To tell any more would be cheating, but I'll assure you that this new set of premises does lead to a satisfyingly complex and potentially tragic plot, fully in the high dramatic spirit of the original.

Ah, but the songs. Actually, the first few songs are very ordinary and disappointing - one, 'Heaven By The Sea,' plays almost like a parody of conventional opening numbers from musicals of the 1930s.

'Look With Your Heart,' a duet for Christine and her son, is pretty but slight, and it really isn't until the first Christine-Phantom duet, 'Once Upon Another Time,' that we hit a song as good as, say, 'All I Ask Of You.'

'Devil Take the Hindmost,' a dramatic challenge between Raoul and the Phantom, has a stronger melody than lyrics (Generally speaking, Glenn Slater's lyrics are pedestrian, telegraphing their too-predictable rhymes long in advance), while 'Bathing Beauty' is a throwaway comic song with a catchy melody.

And then finally (It does come very near the end) we hear the title song, which gets pushed a little too hard by both Sierra Boggess and the sound engineer, but it is good.

It may even be as good as 'Music of the Night,' and that's an absolute apex. But even if not quite, it is a really first-class theatre song, in the very top rank of Lloyd Webber's creations.

One element that is likely to disappoint Phantom fans is the physical production, with neither director Jack O'Brien or designer Bob Crowley demonstrating the flair and imagination of their predecessors.

The show moves rather stodgily from scene to scene and, while there is a large chorus, there are no spectacular set pieces like 'Masquerade' or the descent into the Phantom's cavern. A few lovely CGI projections aside, the stage is too often just bare and/or dark, giving the production just the slightest hint of low-budget tackiness.

As Christine, Sierra Boggess is a bit shrill in the high register for my taste, but that's evidently what the composer wants, since he's written her lots of high trills.

The two men sing adequately if unspectacularly. Given a much more sympathetic Phantom to play, Ramin Karimloo has a little trouble finding the character, but he gets there, while Raoul has been altered so much that Joseph Millson is for all practical purposes playing a wholly new character, who he sketches in nicely.

And it is a measure of the high quality of the show that the Girys are played by two actress-singers of star stature, Liz Robertson and Summer Strallen.

So go. It's good. It's very good.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Love Never Dies - Adelphi 2010

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