Friday, August 13, 2010

Love Never Dies, Part One: An Introduction

I am a huge phan. For those of you not in the know, that means I love the Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical The Phantom of the Opera, which has been successfully playing for over 20 years on stage. It has gotten a lot of recognition, being perhaps the most popular musical around, and there was even a movie released several years ago, starring Gerard Butler as the Phantom.

Now, Phantom is a phenomenon if ever there was one, and it's a musical I know all the words to. But it had a huge growing process to get to where it is now. Lyrics were changed, songs were shortened, and roles were recast and recast and recast. But the effects have always been phabulous, the music has always been phantastic, and the cultural impact has been more phar-reaching (I know, it's a stretch) than anyone could have anticipated.

For example, every song has a multitude of interpretations, depending on who's involved with the production at the time. Take one of my favorites, "Music of the Night." Michael Crawford's version is vastly different from the version that Gerard Butler sings in the movie.

There is also something quite puzzling I've noticed over the years that I like to call "Phantom Creep." Namely, the disfiguration of the Phantom's face has lessened and lessened over the years. It's still shocking, yeah, but not as grotesque as in the good old days. There's Michael Crawford, and then there's Gerard Butler.

But, although the story is weakish and the characters are flatish, the Phantom excluded, the music keeps it all afloat, and it works wonderfully. On a side note, I'd like to say that Ramin Karimloo is probably my favorite Phantom, which weighs heavily on what will follow this post.

And then I heard that Andrew Lloyd Webber had made a sequel. Set ten years later. On Coney Island. My first reaction was as expected: "WHAT?!?!?" I became rather annoyed at Webber, because, let's be honest, while he had been talking about making one for a good decade or two, I never figured he had the guts to do so. Webber, however, thought differently, saying that the original sort of ended on a cliffhanger. I'm not lying here.

At the same time, I was intrigued, and I set out to get the gist of what Love Never Dies was all about. And I came upon a video of one of the songs from the production, "Till I Hear You Sing." Folks, if you don't click on another link in this post, click on that one. It was enough to persuade me to buy the soundtrack and see what it was all about. Yes, it's Ramin Karimloo himself singing, doing even better than he did with the original, and the song is beautiful.

So, I've now listened to the entire thing a few times, and what did I think? Coming next time, you'll find out.

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