Thursday, August 19, 2010

Love Never Dies, Part Three: Act II

And now we're back after the intermission! My review of Love Never Dies, while only halfway done, has attracted a pinch of negative buzz, most notably from the musical's hate site, Love Should Die (LSD for short, and did I mention they sell T-shirts?). There are a couple of things I'd like to address:

First off, Andrew Lloyd Webber has not been overly polite in talking about Love Never Dies. This doesn't change the music itself, but my opinion of him has lessened. There is no reason to split the fandom in half, each side calling itself the "true phans" of the original. Despite what Webber and LSD say, true phans are the ones that love to watch and listen to the original Phantom of the Opera. Whether you enjoy the sequel or not, the original is still there, and a true phan will still be able to come back to it whenever they're in the mood for some music of the night.

Second, Love Never Dies shouldn't be compared to the original. It's easy for any critic to do so, but no new musical should be compared to a classic, especially the most popular musical of all time. To do so would be foolish and would only make you seriously hate the sequel.

Third, the ambiguity of the original Phantom's ending is gone now. There's no getting past that, and it's kind of sad. But Webber wanted a sequel, and if he didn't want said ambiguity to exist anymore, he's well within his rights to say what happened after. Personally, I'm very 50/50 about the whole thing, because while the original Phantom has a beautiful ending, there was always a slight nagging at the back of my mind as to how the frankly flimsy relationship between Christine and Raoul would last. And this is especially true because Raoul in the original was a very flat character. He sings great stuff, and "All I Ask of You" is still gorgeous (I listened to it again the other day; I told you I'm a phan), but he's not that interesting.

Moving on now, with Act II!
Entr'acte: It's exactly what it says it is, and it does its job quite well. The musical recap of Act I is tasteful, and the main themes soar quite nicely as it seques into the second half.

Why Does She Lone Me?: Raoul is in a bar, drunk and depressed, and asking himself this question. In walks Meg. And you'll never quess who's tending bar. This is a lovely somber piece, but not as infinitely sing-able as the start to the original's Act II (sorry, I said I shouldn't compare).

Devil Take the Hindmost: This is good stuff. Admit it, all of you have been wanting for a long time to hear a Phantom/Raoul duet, and this simple yet tense melody delivers. A fair bit of plot is exchanged amid insults, and the inner aggression is nicely channeled by both of the actors.

Heaven by the Sea (reprise): Nothing to say here that I haven't said before. I know what Webber's purpose is, but the same problems are here as before.

Ladies...Gents!/The Coney Island Waltz (reprise): Just more of the Trio announcing in their bizarre voices, which becomes oddly hypnotic after a few listenings, but is nothing special. A decided "meh" track.

Bathing Beauty: Hoo, boy, how far Meg has fallen. This cute, gaudy piece accomplishes its aforementioned goal in spades, but it certainly is painful to listen to. Especially disappointing after this act's stronger start.

"Mother, Did You Watch?": A very short track. The acting is nicely done by both Girys, and it moves the plot along, but it's got nothing new.

Before the Performance: The longest piece in the show thus far, we have reached the Holy Grail for phans. It's full of homages to the original, providing a nice symmetry for the original's climax, and it does the heart good to hear "Till I Hear You Sing" once more, especially with Christine's "Twisted Every Way" moment from the original.

Devil Take the Hindmost (Quartet): Yep, the song's still great, and the addition of new parts makes for a rich, tense track. I especially like the Phantom's new part, which soars, luscious and full, above the rest of the proceedings.

Love Never Dies: And at long last we arrive at the title track! It is the best the musical has to offer? No, that's "Till I Hear You Sing." Plus, it's been used before, in the period Webber thought he'd never make a sequel. But the piece works best here, and it's clear that this is the song's preferred home.

"Ah, Christine!...": I like this, but it's a bit rushed, especially in a letter at the end. Still, it's great to hear Karimloo inject his passion into the scene, even if he is rather young for the part of the Phantom ten years later.

"Gustave! Gustave!...": More just a string of events to get you to the final track, and while there's nothing particularly wrong with it, it's not all that special.

"Please Miss Giry, I Want to Go Back...": The death of a major character, a kidnapping, a kiss, and not in that order. It's not any "Down Once More" (sorry, I'm comparing it to the original again), but it's got some good emotion in it, even if the Phantom has a stupid line and a certain character takes an agonizingly slow time to die. An unusual way to end this saga of sorts, but this has been an unusual musical from the start.

So, what did I think? The music is really pretty good, with some spots that really soar above other musicals. However, it has the unfortunate fate of following the original Phantom. And it just can't compare. The story is weak, and while the original's was too, it didn't show quite so much. The character changes are interesting, but sometimes not the most desirable things in the world.

Yet... I find Love Never Dies to be a strangely addictive experience. There are some truly beautiful moments, and its reception was nowhere near as bad as LSD would have you think. Someday, after it's come to America, I might find myself seeing it. The truth of the matter is, if it wasn't a sequel, Love Never Dies could be great, something that could stick betten than this one probably will. I honestly don't know how it will do, but it carries the weight of the original around wherever it goes.

But I'll listen to the soundtrack from time to time, whether it continues to be profitable or sinks prematurely, because there's some really good stuff in there.

My rating: 8/10 (higher if I could view it as a separate entity)

Coming Soon: Classic of the Month.

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