BWW Review: Paramount Presents LOVE NEVER DIES - Oh, Please Let It
I'll admit that I've never been what you would call a fan of "Phantom of the Opera". I appreciate it for what it is, and I find it tolerable with some interesting melodies but largely it's all flash and no substance. But now comes the (gulp) sequel to "Phantom", "Love Never Dies" currently playing at the Paramount, and this overblown pile of musical theater Ambien not only stretches out the story to a ridiculous effect but also by doing so exposes the original to what it really is, a desperate need for therapy and a restraining order.
In this continuation with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Ben Elton based in part on the 1999 novel "The Phantom of Manhattan", we find the Phantom (Gardar Thor Cortes) did not disappear into the ether but was saved by Madame and Meg Giry (Karen Mason and Mary Michael Patterson) and secreted away to America where they have now built a theater on Coney Island filled with burlesque dancers, circus performers, and side show freaks in which Meg headlines. Now, 10 years later, and Christine (Meghan Picerno) is a famous singer and has been invited to come to America to sing at the opening of a new opera house. She arrives with her husband Raoul (Sean Thompson) and their son Gustave (Jake Heston Miller). But on their arrival, they are intercepted by the Phantom's hench-circus ghouls and ... well ... you can probably figure out the rest. The Phantom wants her to sing for him, she protests, Raoul pouts, Madame Giry and Meg seethe and nothing really gets resolved. Oh and (SPOILER) guess who the real Father of Gustave is. Something the Phantom comes to the realization of because he hears the kid play the piano for two seconds. He has talent, so he must be! By that rationale the Phantom is also the father of Chopin, Gershwin, and Stevie Wonder.
So they took the first show, which was borderline at best, where they had a magical, mysterious mentor with his muse under his spell that could only be broken by her dashing true love and taken it to a place where they've shown that there is no "happily ever after", with a spotlight on these characters and exposed them to be a creepy stalker still obsessed 10 years later, a willing victim who longs for the attention, and a petulant, drunken gambling addict who's just become kind of a misogynistic jerk. And are we just going to blow past the fact that the kid is basically a product of rape? I guess we are. The continued story doesn't revisit old friends, it pees on them and in the most predictable and boring way. The music is utterly forgettable drivel. The original had "Sing my Angel of Music" and this one has (I'm not kidding) "All I ask is that you sing for me once more". But then, it's a Glenn Slater lyric so what can we expect? But the score is equally uninspired. Occasionally they throw in a melody line or two from the first one as a "Hey, remember that show you liked?" but then they yank it away almost as quickly because this ain't that show.
There are just so many things wrong with this show that I could go on for days but let's talk about the cast. I'm really happy for them that they get to keep up with their car payments and keep their medical insurance for being in this. They're very talented singers and I hope someday they'll get to be in a good show again.
Oh, Sir Andrew, why did you feel the need to do this to us? You couldn't have just left the fairy tale alone? You had to turn on the lights so we can see that the magic is just Christmas tree lights and glitter and the ruby slippers are just sequins? And so, with my three-letter rating system I give "Love Never Dies" at the Paramount Theatre the dreaded but all too deserved WTF. One has to wonder if Sir Andrew meant "Love Never Dies" as a promise or a threat. After what I saw last night, I'm thinking both and that we'll soon get part three, "Gustave's Revenge".
"Love Never Dies" performs at the Paramount through May 13th. For tickets for information visit Seattle Theatre Group online at www.STGPresents.org.