BWW Review: LOVE NEVER DIES at BROWARD CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
Bank of America presents the Broadway Across America production of the musical Love Never Dies. Featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book B. Lloyd Webber, Slater, Ben Elton, Frederick Forsyth. It is a sequel to the long-running musical The Phantom of the Opera loosely adapted from the 1999 novel The Phantom of Manhattan, by Forsyth. The character of The Phantom is taken from the French novel The Phantom of the Opera (French: Le Fantôme de l'Opéra) written by Gaston Leroux in 1909. The novel is partly inspired by historical events at the Paris Opera during the nineteenth century, and an apocryphal tale concerning the use of a former ballet pupil's skeleton in Carl Maria von Weber's 1841 production of Der Freischütz.
The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris Opera House and The Phantom has escaped to a new life in New York where he lives amongst the screaming joy rides and freak shows of Coney Island. In this new, electrically charged world, he has finally found a place for his music to soar, but he has never stopped yearning for his one true love and musical protégée, Christine Daaé. Now one of the world's finest sopranos, Christine accepts an invitation to travel from Paris to New York to perform at a renowned opera house. Christine's marriage to Raoul is suffering at the hands of his drinking and gambling; and they desperately need the financial rewards that America can give them. In a final bid to win back Christine's love, The Phantom lures her, Raoul, and their young son Gustave, from Manhattan to the glittering and glorious world of Coney Island - not knowing what is in store for them.
The world of Coney Island proves to be gaudy and garish rather than glittering and glorious. It is a twisted, circus side-show manifestation of the tortured psyche of the Phantom. The three characters of Fleck (Katrina Kemp), Gangle (Stephen Petrovich), and Squelch (Richard Koons) are a kind of Greek Chorus of Coney Island performers that propel the story forward with their musical narrative, and lure the audience into the underbelly of Coney Island far different than the coy dance numbers, such as "Bathing Beauty", being performed above. The elaborate scenic design and detailed costumes provide a setting that is phantasmagorical. Moving platforms are paired with staging that intentionally creates the feeling of a malevolent merry-go-round. It is visually a show with much to look at and appreciate. Because the intent is not to create beauty, but to create an unsettling feeling of emotional and mental discord, this element may be underappreciated by some audience members, but the design and execution of these elements of the show are truly remarkable.
The live, fifteen-piece orchestra plays the score for Love Never Dies with passion; and one can see and feel the unswerving hand of the conductor shaping the music. The style of the composition varies from Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. There are lovely musical interludes that sound reminiscent of Sigmund Romberg and/or Georges Bizet. Those are the best musical moments of the show. Sometimes when Webber tries to write more dramatically rather than lyrically, he becomes sloppy. Like The Phantom of the Opera, it is written like an opera or operetta, and definetely requires classically trained voices singing the leading roles of Christine and The Phantom. Fortunately, in this production, both the actor playing The Phantom, Gardar Thor Cortes, and the actress playing Christine, Meghan Picerno, are clearly very experienced, trained singers who know their craft and their instrument quite well.
The two most beautiful and memorable songs in the show are the opening song "'Till I Hear You Sing", and the title song "Love Never Dies". The first is sung with power and longing by Cortes, and the second is sung with soaring loveliness by Picerno. The heartfelt song "Why Does She Love Me" is also well sung by Sean Thompson as Raoul. A young Casey Lyons, as Christine's son Gustave, has the voice of an angel,
It's difficult to truly access the amount of chemistry between Christine and The Phantom because their relationship is so fraught with ambiguity, and the script can be so stilted. In addition to her gifted singing ability, Picerno (Christine) has great physical beauty that would easily make The Phantom still long for her. In addition, although The Phantom is several years older than Christine in The Phantom of the Opera, he is about her age in the sequel, so their potential romantic relationship is more palatable. While the story of Erik (The Phantom) and Christine is about music and love, sometimes the story of that love gets lost in the writing of the score and script. In one scene between The Phantom and Christine, the song "Beneath a Moonlit Sky", has them nose-to-nose, gripping one another, in the throes of a melodramatic, passionate embrace for a seeming eternity as they sing "Aaaaand I kissed you", "Iiiiiii caressed you" at the top of their voices. It is in these melodramatic moments that the show runs off the rails. There is also the occasional, surprise appearance of trite lyrics that spoil the mood. This is no fault of the actors, but does explain the previous mixed reviews and rewrites of this show. In those moments that remain honest and true, Love Never Dies is wondrous indeed, but one does need to wade through some chaff to get to the wheat.
The talent in this production of Love Never Dies is unquestionably top-notch, and both of the leads truly seem to be pouring themselves whole-heartedly into their performances. They are unquestionably focused and committed to each other, to the moment, and to the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Although Andrew Lloyd Webber began working on Love Never Dies in 1990, it was not until 2007 that he began writing the music. The show opened at the Adelphi Theatre in London's West End on March 9, 2010. The original London production received mostly negative reviews; and it closed for four days in November of 2010 for substantial re-writes, which were overseen B. Lloyd Webber. A planned Broadway production, which was to have opened simultaneously with the West End run, was cancelled. The subsequent Australian production, featuring an entirely new design team and heavy revisions, was generally better received. Love Never Dies has gone on to enjoy productions worldwide in London, Australia, Denmark, Japan and Germany. A DVD release of the Australian production inspired a following of fans globally, and now the North American tour brings the musical to US for the first time with its' premiere performance at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has received three Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, an Oscar, an International Emmy, a Golden Globe Award, six Olivier Awards, and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2006. His works include thirteen musicals, two film scores, one song cycle, a set of variations, and a Latin Requiem Mass. He is best known for the musicals The Phantom of the Opera, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Sunset Boulevard, Aspects of Love, Cats, Starlight Express, and Song and Dance.
Broadway Across America (BAA) is part of The John Gore Organization family of companies, which includes Broadway.com and The Broadway Channel. Led by 11-time Tony-winning producer John Gore (Owner & CEO), BAA is the foremost presenter of first-class touring productions in North America, operating in 44 markets with over 400,000 subscribers. Current and past productions include Beautiful, Cats, Chicago, Dear Evan Hansen, Groundhog Day, Hairspray, Hello, Dolly!, Million Dollar Quartet, On Your Feet!, The Producers, School of Rock and Waitress. Broadway.com is the premier theater website for news, exclusive content and ticket sales. For more information please visit www.Broadwayacrossamerica.com and www.broadway.com. For information on this particular tour please visit www.lovenverdies.com.
Florida Theatrical Association - the non-profit presenter of Broadway in Fort Lauderdale was founded with the charge of educating and developing new theater audiences and encouraging and preserving the presentation of touring Broadway theater. Since 1989 Florida Theatrical Association has presented over 1,050 Broadway performances and distributed over $1.6 million in scholarships and grants to arts organizations across the state of Florida.
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is located in the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District at 201 SW Fifth Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts houses the Au-Rene Theater, the Amaturo Theatre, and the Abdo New River Room, and has affiliated venues at the Parker Playhouse, the Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center, and the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center.
One of America's premier performing arts venues, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts presents more than 700 performances each year to more than 700,000 patrons, showcasing a wide range of exciting cultural programming and events. Guest experiences at the Broward Center include the all-inclusive Latam Airlines Club Level, spectacular riverfront views for special events in the Huizenga Pavilion, waterfront dining at Marti's New River Bistro and innovative classes and workshops for all ages at the Rose Miniaci Arts Education Center. With one of the largest arts-in-education programs in the United States, the Broward Center serves more than 150,000 students annually. The Broward Performing Arts Foundation, Inc. receives and maintains funds to sustain, develop and secure the future of the Broward Center. For more information, visit www.BrowardCenter.org.
The Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment Consortium is a cultural partnership between the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, Florida Grand Opera, Fort Lauderdale History Center and the Historic Stranahan House Museum. It is supported by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. Programs are sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.
This Bank of America, Broadway Across Fort Lauderdale production of Love Never Dies will be appearing through November 19, 2017, in the Au Rene Theater of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is located in the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District at 201 SW Fifth Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets for this production start at $35. Ticketmaster is the only official ticketing service of the Broward Center, Parker Playhouse and affiliated venues. You may buy tickets online at www.BrowardCenter.org or www.Ticketmaster.com, or by phone at 954-462-0222 or the Broward Center's AutoNation Box Office.
Phantom: Gardar Thor Cortes*
Fleck: Katrina Kemp
Gangle: Stephen Petrovich
Squelch: Richard Koons
Madame Giry: Karen Mason
Christine Daae: Meghan Picerno
Raoul, Viconte de Chagny: Sean Thompson
Gustave: Casy Lyons
Ensemble: Chelsey Arce, Diana DiMaezio, Tyler Donohue, Yesy Garcia, Tamar Greene, Natalia Lepore Hagan, Laurne Lukacek, Alyssa McAnany, Rachel Anne Moore, Bronson Norris Murphy, Dave Schoonover, John Swapshire IV, Kelly Swint, Lucas Thompson, Arthur Wise
Wig & Hair Design: Backstage Artistry
Stage Manager: Daniel S. Rosokoff
*Gardar Thor Cortes appears courtesy of Actors' Equity as part of an exchange program with American Equity and UK Equity. All other actors in this production are members of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional stage actors and stage managers in the United States.
- John Lariviere