Monday, May 14, 2018

“Love Never Dies” is the usual dying sequel

Gustav and Christine in Love Never Dies (Joan Marcus)

Love Never Dies
Paramount Theatre
Through May 13, 2018

Andrew Lloyd Webber hit the goldmine with his musical about The Phantom of the Opera. It came out and then seemed to go everywhere and get produced in every place. Some years later, after not having anything remotely like a hit for some time, it seems like he wanted to take advantage of that magic by creating a sequel. Love Never Dies was an attempt to prolong the 20 minutes of fame that Phantom brought. Created in 2010, it has recently been touring the U.S. and came to the Paramount last week.

The cast list looked good, with a host of opera-based singers. A few of those singers didn’t quite live up to the challenge of even this most boring of musicals. Gardar Thor Cortes starred as The Phantom with a hefty resume, but his acting was wooden and overblown. It would seem clear that the only reason Christine would still love him is due to some kind of magic and not really because he was such a lovable person.

Meghan Picerno starred as 'Christine Daaé and managed a very credible job as the singer who charms the world. Along with Mary Michael Patterson as Meg Giry and a pert and plucky Katrina Kemp as Fleck, one of the cohort of Coney Island narrators, the women were generally a cut above the men. However, Gustav, the 10 year old, is clearly an outstanding upcomer, played here by Christian Harmston.

For those who want to know what this sequel was about, it is set in 1907, 10 years after The Phantom disappears from the Paris Opera House. The original show implied that he had died, but here we find that the Phantom has a new life in New York and produces a show on Coney Island. But clearly, he has never stopped yearning for Christine. In the snooze-inducing first song, all he sings, for about five minutes, is that he longs to hear Christine sing “once more.” Ok, we get it.

Christine is invited to sing at Oscar Hammerstein’s theatre, so she and her family travel to NYC, and all of New York is atwitter (that was a word before tweeting), and The Phantom realizes that his opportunity is at hand. The audience also immediately got what it means when Christine and her husband step off the boat and a 10 year old boy runs onto the stage calling, “Mother, mother.” And many laughed! Oho! Who is the “real father” to this boy? And clearly we know why Christine would marry the now-weak-and-odious Raoul. And boy oh boy, Christine is one unlucky woman.

Those who see the tour will see a beautifully rendered Coney Island set, infused with dots of light bulbs and lit-up tracks of rides along the walls. In the second act, there was a darkly creepy scene in a kind of Coney Island dungeon where tall watery cages seemed to house misshapen creatures. The costuming, also by set designer Gabriela Tylesova, is sumptuous and colorful.

The acoustics at the Paramount are pretty terrible and this show was almost ununderstandable at times as the singers were overpowered by the orchestra, though the musicians sounded wonderful. Still, we’re supposed to know what the singers are singing. Once there was more than one person singing at a time, it was too hard to hear the lyrics. Of course, the lyrics in this “operetta” (there is almost no speaking in this piece) are so pedestrian that you don’t miss much.

Director Simon Phillips has a bio with deep musical-directing credentials in Australia (this revamp was rewritten for this tour in Australia). His bio states that he has artistic-directored two different companies. However, the wooden acting style of the cast makes me wonder whether the productions he’s directed in Australia displayed the same lack of emotional expression.

There are several more cities that this lump of a musical will go to, but I wouldn’t tell any of your friends to go. If you’d like more information, please visit

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