This week has been rough, so I’m going to write about Love Never Dies. There are spoilers abound, friends.
First, the plot (of the 2011 Australian version, which I think is the version I watched, just based off the synopses). Act 1 consists predominantly of vague exposition for the events of 10 years ago, Phantom of the Opera. But also a giant “Where are they now” segment. Christine, Raoul, and their son, Gustav, arrive in New York to perform for Hammerstein (I’m assuming this guy because who else). Gustav is enamored with the circus, which is on Coney Island, run by the Phantom and Madame Giry. How everyone got there went beyond me.
There is no real sense of setting. The circus feels more like another character than a place and characters flit between scenes so easily. For example, it is via synopsis that I realized the Phantom’s lair is a tower, which raises a lot of questions about Brooklyn architecture circa 1907. I honestly wish the circus performers got their own show because that was delightful. There could be a plot somewhere between performances.
Anyway, the trio get kidnapped to Coney Island and Christine shares a song with her son. After he goes to bed, the Phantom shows up and begs her to sing one last song. Christine realizes he isn’t dead and is overcome with old passion. As a final performance, he requests that she skip the Hammerstein performance and sing for him. She refuses, at which point, the Phantom threatens to kidnap Gustave. Turns out that Gustave is a singing prodigy and also the Phantom’s son. Madame Giry overhears all this and plans some kind of revenge. It’s apparent at this point that Hammerstein might not have been real at all, but it is such inconsequential nonsense.
Act II had so many things happening. We have Raoul confronting the Phantom after a bender. Meg is revealed to be a burlesque dancer (why this didn’t come up in a number in Act I could easily be solved) who only wanted the Phantom to notice her. Christine sings the song, Raoul runs away to America. Meg kidnaps Gustave, threatens to jump into the ocean. When that doesn’t succeed, she threatens to shoot herself, but winds up shooting Christine instead. Christine dies, Raoul shows up just in time to hold her in his arms. The Phantom embraces Gustave and the musical just ends.
Overall, there is little sense of pacing or character motivation. The whole thing was a little predictable and felt contrived. The characters were simultaneously too much and nothing, with nary a resemblance to the original work. Those issues aside, it could be salvaged with a greater understanding of timing and setting.
Second, the lyrics could have used so much proofreading. Several lyrics were contradictory. In one piece, Christine sings simultaneously about how much Meg had changed except also how she looks like the girl from her childhood. The title song, Love Never Dies, has about three lines and has no place being performed at a carnival.
I was entertained when I saw it with my friends, but there were some many nonsense choices that didn’t do much for a work whose premise seemed dubious from the start.
Song of the Week: “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera (1986)
Actively Reading: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (2018)