So… where to begin. I’ve been captivated by The Phantom of the Opera and Lloyd Weber’s musical magic for as long as I can remember, and had very high hopes for Love Never Dies. However, many things made my experience with this work problematic. I saw it performed at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, January 7, 2018. From the very start, I found it hard to understand what the Phantom and Christine were saying as they sang! There were murmurs in the crowd of similar sentiment and I initially thought it was a technical issue, as I have been to many other musicals and had no such issue. However, when the child, Gustave sang, I understood him perfectly. So that was beyond annoying. However, I cannot express the amount of praise that should be given to the young actor who played Gustave–simply wonderful.
Now, after having to look up the lyrics to Beneath a Moonless Sky, and Once Upon Another Time, they are lovely! But alas, I did not know that last night when I attended the theater, because again, I could not understand what they were saying! Maybe the performers were tired because this was the last performance day, I believe, for Pittsburgh, but really. Quite disappointing, though the performers were clearly talented. Interestingly, this article references microphone issues.
Onto the story line… Oy. Let me preface this by saying that, no, I am not hard of hearing, and I did have to look up some plot points because I could not understand some of what was being said while singing. Now… I went in trying to check my judge-y-ness, knowing it would be hard to come close to competing with Phantom, but… yeah. From the very beginning I found the characters lacking continuity from Phantom, though it claims to be a sequel. I know 10 years have passed. It makes sense to me that the Phantom would still be longing for Christine, but it makes no sense to me that the knight-in-shining-armor, Raoul, would have become a gambling drunk?! I guess they had to do something to make Christine vulnerable to the Phantom again, but… this really seemed like a stretch for me.
And what is deliciously at the crux of everything in the original Phantom: is the Phantom obsessive, creepy and alluring? Yes. And does he obsess over Christine’s voice/make you question whether he really loves her? Sure. But there is so much more depth to it, he literally takes her into his lair to explore herself, him, her sexuality, etc and… I feel like all of that depth is somehow lost in the sequel as the story has sort of become a less nuanced love triangle with Raoul, for whatever reason, being unable to give Christine what she needs. When before he offered not only stability, but a pure type of love without constraint, obsession, or control. Ugh. The whole plot just seemed so forced and contrived.
Onto Meg. A Family Guy reference just came into my mind, everybody hates Meg. This annoyed me to no end because there was NO indication of any of this jealousy or spitefulness in her character before! The only thing I can think of is when she said previously in Phantom: “I only wish I knew your secret, who is your great tutor?” But this hardly explains kidnapping Gustave, threatening to kill him, and herself to get the Phantom’s attention. No. Meg expressed much concern for Christine (“your talking in riddles, and it’s not like you” and later says “don’t be frightened”). My whole being was screaming “no” when Meg’s character arc was manifesting. I was so frustrated.
One thing I can appreciate is that the connection between Christine and Phantom is still strong after so long, but it bothers me that Christine seems to have done no maturing and is unable to stand up for herself against him, even if he is who she really wants. The characters seemed much less dynamic and flat here.
To me, the plot could have been so so SO much better, and as it stands seems nauseatingly sophomoric and unbelievable. Probably achieved by committee design, no one takes credit for its faults and everyone takes credit for its successes. The beloved characters of Phantom I felt were too altered for my taste. Yes, characters change, but this was far too unbelievable for me.