BWW Review: LOVE NEVER DIES at Dallas Summer Musicals

BWW Review: LOVE NEVER DIES at Dallas Summer Musicals

BRING BACK BIRDIE, THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE GOES PUBLIC, and both ANNIE II and ANNIE WARBUCKS all famously failed at recreating the success of the musicals for which they produced sequels. And now, riding on the coat tails of mega-musical THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LOVE NEVER DIES is touring the world, eying a hopeful Broadway run. But, is this sequel what theatre Phans are asking for? I think the jury is still out.

LOVE NEVER DIES jumps ahead of the PHANTOM story by ten years. As the show begins, familiar heroine Christine Daaé (Meghan Picerno) is traveling to the United States to meet Oscar Hammerstein in preparations for an eagerly anticipated singing engagement which would prove her return from retirement since the Paris Opera days. In tow is her now husband, Raoul (Sean Thompson), and her 10-year-old son Gustave (Jake Heston Miller) who seems to share her rich soprano talents. A chance encounter with old pals Madame Giry (Karen Mason) and Meg Giry (Mary Michael Patterson), who have been preparing their own show-stopping act at the Coney Island boardwalk in New York, reunites her with her once mentor, the Phantom (Bronson Norris Murphy), whom she thought had died a full decade earlier. The meeting brings Christine and the Phantom back to old habits, him pleading her to sing for him once more. But will Christine fall back into his trap?

Like Andrew Lloyd Webber's original take on the tale, LOVE NEVER DIES is padded with melodrama, suspense, and goosebump-inducing music that appropriately fills the room with anticipation. And while the Coney Island setting provides a beautiful onstage spectacle, the attempted, over-the-top dramatics occasionally inspire some unintended laughter from the audience. The plot, which is perhaps jam-packed with twenty percent too much music, is relatively easy to follow, but when not one of the principal characters is sympathetic, it's hard to connect with any part of the new story emotionally. In Coney Island, it seems everyone has become stubborn and utterly selfish.

Fortunately, every performance on stage is impeccably sung and convincingly acted. As the Phantom, Bronson Norris Murphy has the power to command the stage, and a voice so beautiful that it causes you to forget his character's physical deformities. He is well matched by Meghan Picerno, who's performance as Christine Daaé makes singing an epic soprano aria to a crowd of thousands look like a walk in the park. Mary Michael Patterson (Meg Giry) brings the liveliest song-and-dance moments to the stage with enthusiasm and a smile, but it's her ability to create the most realized character arch that makes her performance most memorable. Young Jake Heston Miller as Christine's son, Gustave, has the surprise standout performance. Miller's effortless soprano and impressive range of emotions made him a frequent scene-stealer who earned every moment he had in the spotlight.

It's hard to gauge whether or not LOVE NEVER DIES will leave a lasting impression on ticket buyers among this notable season of musicals that includes MISS SAIGON, SCHOOL OF ROCK, and HAMILTON. But, as WICKED did to THE WIZARD OF OZ, there's something about digging deeper into such a familiar story that makes LOVE NEVER DIES intriguing. And if Andrew Lloyd Webber was itching to continue any of his epic productions, let us all celebrate that PHANTOM beat out his other hits: the rebirthing of the leading characters from CATS, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR or EVITA, might lead to some head-scratching results.

LOVE NEVER DIES continues onstage at Music Hall at Fair Park (Dallas Summer Musicals) through August 5th before heading over to Fort Worth at Bass Performance Hall from August 7th-12th. Tickets and more information can be found at www.DallasSummerMusicals.org or www.BassHall.com.

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From This Author Kyle Christopher West

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