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Review: LOVE NEVER DIES, Regent Theatre, The Shows Must Go On

Review: LOVE NEVER DIES, Regent Theatre, The Shows Must Go On

Review: LOVE NEVER DIES, Regent Theatre, The Shows Must Go On Following on from last weekend's streaming of the 25th-anniversary performance of The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies has been released worldwide via YouTube as part of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Shows Must Go On lockdown series. Lloyd Webber has personally described the show as a "standalone piece" rather than simply a sequel to Phantom. It takes audiences on a second adventure, with the characters on the other side of the Atlantic.

The show opened in London at the Adelphi Theatre in March 2010 with Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess, our leading duo from last week in the Royal Albert Hall. After extensive rewrites in November of the same year, this is not the version we see on our screens this weekend. This is a recording of the redesigned production that opened in Australia the following year, starring Ben Lewis and Anna O'Byrne.

Loosely adapted from Frederick Forsyth's 1999 novel, The Phantom of Manhattan, Love Never Dies takes place ten years after the events of Phantom. Madame Giry and her daughter Meg have left Paris and are working at an attraction called Phantasma on Coney Island in New York, run by you-know-who.

Christine, Raoul and their son Gustave arrive in New York to meet with Oscar Hammerstein (i) about Christine's American debut. Dramatic events unfold as the characters reunite and reminisce about what could have been.

Despite Lloyd Webber's insistence that it's not a sequel, it certainly uses a fair amount of material from the original Phantom score, but has its own unique sound with prominent use of saxophones and electric guitar in the orchestrations. It also wouldn't be a Phantom story without the menacing pulsing synthesisers, which do not disappoint.

The combined lyrics of Charles Hart and Glenn Slater are a little predictable, and, apart from the title song, sung beautifully by O'Byrne, and the soaring "Til I Hear You Sing", mournfully and powerfully performed by Lewis, the show lacks the instantly memorable melodies of the original production.

Simon Gleeson plays Raoul with a suitable disgruntled nature and does the best he can do with the way his character has been crudely rewritten. Sharon Millerchip perfectly embodies Meg, the new ingénue, and Maria Mercedes makes a brilliant Madame Giry.

The stunning automated stage design by Gabriela Tylesova marries well with the menacing and mysterious plot. The setting of Christine's "Love Never Dies" segment sung in front of a wall of peacock feathers in a beautiful gown, also by Tylesova, is a gorgeous spectacle.

Although lit a little too dark in places, the sweeping shots between rotating set pieces dizzyingly immerses the watcher in the world, giving up-close views of performances that you'd never see from any seat in the theatre. Occasionally, it makes you wonder if you'd be able to see the actors when watching from the auditorium.

While anything can happen in ten years, it feels unrealistic that Meg and Madame Giry - who had been so haunted by the Angel of Music during their time in Paris - would choose to still work with him in New York.

Escalating stories, sinister power dynamics, rash deals and the consistent forgetting of Gustave, left to wander on his own around Coney Island, all make feeling empathy towards Christine and Raoul difficult.

Love Never Dies perhaps shows us why musicals rarely get a sequel, and why we shouldn't entertain the attention of our past lovers. While an intriguing exploration of the events after Phantom, with a soaring score, the show doesn't quite live up to the original.

Love Never Dies is available until 7 pm, 26 April

Photography credit: John Tsiavis

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