Review Roundup: Australian Production of LOVE NEVER DIES
The continuation of Broadway's longest-running musical, The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies has opened the Regent Theatre in Australia.
The Australian production is not be a carbon copy of the London production, and has new design and a new director. Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert) directs, with Gabriela Tylesova behind the design. Guy Simpson, who worked with the Australian production of Phantom, serves as music supervisor, and Graeme Murphy choreographs.
The principal characters of The Phantom of the Opera continue their stories in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies. 10 years after the mysterious disappearance of The Phantom from the Paris Opera House, Christine Daaé accepts an offer to come to America and perform at New York's fabulous new playground of the world - Coney Island. Christine arrives in New York with her husband Raoul and their son Gustave. She soon discovers the identity of the anonymous impresario who has lured her from France to sing.
Chris Boyd, The Australian: "The best thing Lloyd Webber has written in the quarter century since Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies is still a missed opportunity. It toys half-heartedly with domestic melancholia. Christine's wealthy suitor Raoul, 10 years on, is an insecure and possessive husband who uses his wife's talents to pay off his gambling debts. He frets that he cannot deliver to Christine "the rush that music brings", leaving her vulnerable, once more, to her angel of music. Love Never Dies provides several of those rush moments, but doesn't quite connect the starry dots."John Bailey, The Sunday Age: "The songs aren't as memorable as those of Phantom of the Opera, but they're in the same grandiose vein. There is no shortage of soaring numbers to rattle the roof and, as the Phantom, Ben Lewis has the vocal chops. He appears a little too indebted to Anthony Warlow for his character, but I've no doubt he'll settle in over time. Anna O'Byrne's Christine is just as vocally accomplished but still at that cool, early stage of development." Kate Herbert, Herald Sun: "Lloyd Webber's score (conducted skilfully by Guy Simpson) intermittently and elegantly reprises the original Phantom, connecting the two stories but several songs, with trite lyrics, lack punch. A bigger problem is the unsatisfying story. There are unnecessary Red Herrings and too many villains. Madame Giry's (Maria Mercedes) role in the tale keeps changing, Meg's jealous rage is surprising -- even unlikely -- and there is little evidence of any history of love between Raoul and Christine. A duet for the couple is sorely missed."
Les Solomon, AussieTheatre: "Australia has always had great success re-interpreting musicals when they are allowed to do it and aren't under the dictates of copying the original. Nowhere is the genius of our creatives more on display than it is here. This is a real example of Australia's great creative talents at their best. The show overflows with extraordinary images, from a huge carousel to all the lights and sideshow paraphenalia of Coney Island in its heyday. The creative genius behind the show goes a long way to help create a world for this, something it sorely lacked in London. I know one of Webber's big motivations of allowing the show to be re staged is to get interest in the show going to Broadway (where it has twice been postponed) and Broadway would be very lucky to have a production that looks and sounds as good as this version."
Anthony von Leonhardi, InMyCommunity: "Love Never Dies can only be described as a visual and aural extravaganza of mammoth proportions and if opening night was any indication of audience appreciation then this all-Australian package has certainly delivered a sure fire-hit and created two new music theatre stars."Jason Blake, Sydney Morning Herald: "Phillips's production steers clear of "chandelier moments", favouring sustained invention, seamless flow and an engulfing sense of nightmare. There's wow factor, of course (a galloping carousel is an early highlight) though quieter scenes are realised with the same attention to detail, particularly the recreation of a Coney Island bar to frame Raoul's saloon song feature (Why Does She Love Me) and his face-off with Mr Y (Devil Take the Hindmost).
An inspired, often ravishing production for sure, though of a sequel that doesn't make a strong enough musical or narrative argument for its own existence."