BWW Review: LOVE NEVER DIES at Broadway In Austin
I was only vaguely aware of the plot of this sequel to the Phantom of the Opera and was a bit surprised to find no synopsis in the program. However, no synopsis was needed to follow the plot and I prefer not to know too much (or to reveal spoilers). All I knew was that some time has passed since the last story (10 years), Christine and Raoul venture to America to further her career and that the Phantom has something to do with how it all transpired.
The show quickly revealed that Christine and Raoul have a son, Gustave, and that Christine accepted the American job because they are in debt due to Raoul's drinking and gambling issues. The offer to perform in America was supposedly made by none other than Oscar Hammerstein but we learn that it's actually the Phantom and the performance is for his Coney Island show, Phantasma. Before I forget let me say that Phanstasma itself is practically an entire show in and of itself, a show within a show and it is breathtakingly beautiful, and creepy, and wonderful.
There are many good reasons to see Love Never Dies. If you want a huge spectacle, then by all means see it. The costumes are extraordinary, sumptuous and designed to delight and astonish you. The sets are equally incredible, with a turntable stage (ala the first run of Les Misérables), which I like very much. The turntable stage enables the performing artists to make quicker entrances/exits, travel from stage right/left and to execute quicker wardrobe changes. The device also allows directors/choreographers to block the characters in and around massive chunks of scenery and to create illusions of travel and speed.
With that said, as an Andrew Lloyd Webber show we expect a rich and complex score. The score here is indeed complex and beautiful, but it is limited to only three or four "show-stoppers" and unfortunately they are rather forgettable. The rest of the music serves as lines that are sung with echos of Phantom and other Webber shows. The love song was the best tune in my opinion, but I cannot recall the melody at all. The first few notes of title number in Act II (Love Never Dies) sounded eerily reminiscent of the theme from the film The Apartment. Please do not misunderstand, I am not saying the score isn't good, it just wasn't (for me) very memorable.
With that said, I want to applaud again the stellar cast and crew. They are incredible, every second is filled to the brim with a delicious feast for the senses. I am somewhat hard of hearing and the sound here was exceptional - I heard and understood every single word. Often a word (or a sentence) in a show or even a film will sound muddled to me - not so in Love Never Dies. This is due to very good sound engineering and absolute precise enunciation by the cast.
I highly recommend Love Never Dies. It is a great road show and I hope it eventually goes to Broadway. Don't miss it!