Love Never Dies
Musical sequels are risky undertakings at best. Some of the worst productions in musical history have been follow-ups to blockbuster Broadway cash cows, including "Annie Warbucks" and "Bring Back Birdie." But in 1990, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber decided to begin writing a new installment to the classic Gaston Leroux "Phantom of the Opera" story. Twenty-two years, several titles, multiple collaborators and cities of production later, we finally have "Love Never Dies," and this version offers mixed results.
The smartest choices Webber and his creative team (including lyricist Glenn Slater and co-writer Ben Elton) made was in the location to film and in the casting of this production. By filming in Australia, "Love Never Dies" benefits greatly from the talents that were available down under, without the pressures of the American or European gossip machines around. They cast duel-citizens Ben Lewis ("Priscilla, Queen of the Desert") and Anna O'Byrne as the Phantom and Christine Daae respectively, and the two do not disappoint, with glorious voices that serve the recognizable styles which Webber has mastered throughout his 40-year career. Lewis is especially compelling, and evokes sincerity even when Slater's lyrics border on trite (have "regret" and "forget" become the new "moon in June?"). O'Byrne has a voice that can "sing the phone book," and her songs, particularly the title song are delivered with a tone that redeems its content, bordering on the dramatically meaningless.
The book contains some creative moments: a trio of sideshow freaks provide us with the ambience of "The Coney Island Waltz," effectively setting the mood of the show; the song "The Beauty Underneath" takes us back to the title track in Webber's original "Phantom," with its token rock and roll accompaniment - reminding us of the composer who successfully wrote "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita;" and a finale sequence that accomplishes the task of being engaging to the end.
Whether or not this production will see Broadway remains to be seen, as this sequel certainly doesn't appear to have the stamina of the record-setting original, but the DVD is an affordable evening's performance that will leave the viewer satiated.
Love Never Dies - Original Australian Cast
DVD / Blu-Ray
Universal Home Entertainment / The Really Useful Group