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Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Love Never Dies"

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Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera holds the position of the most financially successful musical in history, a smash-blockbuster of epic proportions that still manages to draw crowds over 20 years after its original premiere. It's the Titanic of musicals. And now, after years of middling successes and flops, Webber is attempting to revisit his smash success with a sequel, entitled Love Never Dies.

The official story summary is as follows:

It is 1907. Ten years after the mysterious disappearance of The Phantom from the Paris Opera House, Christine Daae accepts an offer to come to America and perform at the fabulous new playground for the rich - Coney Island.

Arriving in New York with her husband Raoul and their son Gustave, Christine soon discovers the identity of the anonymous impresario who has lured her from France to sing.

Graced with stunning designs, passionate lyrics and a magnificent score, this brand-new musical is a rollercoaster ride of obsession and intrigue...in which music and memory can play cruel tricks... and The Phantom sets out to prove that, indeed, LOVE NEVER DIES.

It's all very absurd. Some of it doesn't even make much sense (it's clear from casting calls that Gustave is really the Phantom's son, not Raoul's, which seems impossible given the narrative of the original musical), and some of the details are curiously odd (descriptions of a mechanical Christine automaton, like the one from the original show, acting as this show's "chandelier" equivalent in terms of an audience-wowing special effect, or the casting notices which mention characters "Mr. Gangle," "Mr. Squelch," and "Fleck," who are "strange and mystical" characters who "comment on the story," like a Greek chorus). But some of it is interesting; Coney Island, at least on paper, is the right playground for a man of the Phantom's talents, given his talent as an illusionist, architect, and showman, and in the right hands could be a compelling setting.

As it stands, Webber's artistic judgment is very suspect. He's been in decline for quite some time (and even at his height was more of a showman than a skilled artist), and has yet to prove himself still capable of making a successful show. That said, I suspect he knows that, and maybe he's just hungry enough to produce something worthwhile, though from the plot summary and casting notices, Love Never Dies seems more bizarre than good. But at least it's interesting, I suppose, and not a safe, dull retread of the original. The involvement of skilled director Jack O'Brien and designer Bob Crowley is certainly promising.

And I have to say that I can't help but be a little bit more interested after this new trailer. It's nothing awe-inspiring, but the sample of Webber's score featured here, which is admittedly all too brief, sounds very fine (complete with a new spin on the famous Phantom motif from the original show), and the old footage of Coney Island gives off a nicely creepy vibe, albeit it seems more than a bit jarring when compared against the elegant Parisian setting of its predecessor.

On October 8th, the show will get its official announcement, complete with a live performance of music from the show (Ramin Karimloo will star as the Phantom, and Sierra Boggess as Christine Daae). I'll be curious to see how it pans out when the show makes its premiere in Spring 2010.

Edited by Ryan H.

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The official site has launched with a video of the press conference (and a preview of new music, including the "Coney Island Waltz," and a new song for the Phantom, "Till I Hear You Sing," sung by Ramin Karimloo). Here's the official logo:

Banner.jpg

Edited by Ryan H.

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I am so distraught over this. As you explained earlier, Ryan, it only takes the whole story and characters from the first one -- which I have adored for years -- and blows them to smithereens. For the first time, I truly understand what the Star Wars fans were talking about with the whole "George Lucas raped my childhood" bit after the prequels came out. Thanks a lot, Andrew "Do I Smell More Money?" Lloyd Webber. :(

Edited by Gina

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Thanks a lot, Andrew "Do I Smell More Money?" Lloyd Webber. :(

I don't think Webber's motivation for LOVE NEVER DIES is cash. Of course, he wants a hit, but his primary motivator, I think, is a quality project. If not, we would have gotten it a long time before now (he's been working on it for close to 10 years), and it would be considerably less, well, nutty. Webber's admitted he's terrified about this musical failing, particularly in light of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA's mega-success. I do think it's something of a labor of love. That doesn't mean Webber has fashioned something good (perhaps entirely the opposite), but I think LOVE NEVER DIES really is something he cares deeply about.

I think part of his desire to do this is because he knows that PHANTOM somewhat overshadows his entire career, and he has the crazy desire to somehow equal it, or produce something on the same level, and thinks that a sequel might be the way to do so. Anyway, even if LOVE NEVER DIES is a complete failure, it's going to be a spectacular, insane failure. And thus, I can't help but be a little bit excited to see how things turn out. :P

I do like the so-called "Coney Island Waltz" that Webber premieres in that press conference, with its subtle hints of the familiar "Phantom theme" from the original musical. I'm less compelled by "Till I Hear You Sing," which strikes me as more than a little lackluster. It's pleasant enough, but it won't become a standard like "The Music of the Night" or "All I Ask of You" have managed to be. And I daresay Ramin Karimloo, while fine, doesn't seem to have the unique voice or personality that made Michael Crawford's Phantom so distinctive; he's good, but he seems like he could be any one of many pretty good talents.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Anyway, even if LOVE NEVER DIES is a complete failure, it's going to be a spectacular, insane failure. And thus, I can't help but be a little bit excited to see how things turn out. :P

Ah, a man after my own heart. ;)

Maybe you're right about ALW's thought processes, but if he considers it a labor of love to completely mess up the storyline and characters of the show that was so personally important to him, he is one warped little man.

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Maybe you're right about ALW's thought processes, but if he considers it a labor of love to completely mess up the storyline and characters of the show that was so personally important to him, he is one warped little man.

Well, I didn't say it made sense, but I do think he believes he's doing right by the original.

Edited by Ryan H.

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The tracklisting for the cast recording has been leaked:

[content removed by request
of the
Really Useful Group Ltd]

Pretty interesting. It's clear that like the original PHANTOM, LOVE NEVER DIES builds towards a performance composed by the Phantom. Otherwise, it's hard to make out any plot details. The song titles are too cryptic or too generic to give any real idea of narrative.

Edited by Anna J

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Okay, here's another song from LOVE NEVER DIES. This the title song, which, in the story, is the aria the Phantom has composed for Christine to perform at the concert he's holding at Coney Island. If the tune sounds familiar, it's because it's not new; Webber previously premiered it as "The Heart is Slow to Learn" at his birthday celebration a number of years ago, announcing it was the start of PHANTOM 2. When the original plans for PHANTOM 2 fell through, it showed up as "Our Kind of Love" in THE BEAUTIFUL GAME. Now Webber has removed it from THE BEAUTIFUL GAME and used it in LOVE NEVER DIES, using it as he originally intended.

Blah. The lyrics are a bigger problem here than they were in the lackluster "Till I Hear You Sing," and while the chorus is passable "Poor Man's Puccini," as one can expect from Webber, the verses are very dull indeed. In the original show, the Phantom composed "The Point of No Return" for Christine to sing, a song full of dark eroticism with strongly predatory overtones. This... well, this is just sappy romanticism, and I fear that will characterize LOVE NEVER DIES on the whole (just as it more or less characterized the 2004 film). The Phantom has been defanged, as it were, no longer a tragic monster playing Svengali to a young girl, but a passionate romantic hero out of a dime store novel.

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Big reveal. Amazon.co.uk has released preview clips of the entire cast recording.

I'm astonished; LOVE NEVER DIES sounds far worse than I ever thought it would. LOVE NEVER DIES is going to be a disaster, and not an enjoyable one.

EDIT: The clips are now removed. Either Amazon put them up too early (there were some mighty big spoilers contained in those clips), or RUG became concerned about the negative reaction.

Edited by Ryan H.

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The official site now has a complete list of all the musical numbers in the show. Nothing revelatory there, but it does list the scenes and which characters are featured when. It seems as though Raoul's out of the picture two-thirds of the way through Act Two. There's also a letter from Andrew Lloyd Webber detailing the genesis of LOVE NEVER DIES.

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Big reveal. Amazon.co.uk has released preview clips of the entire cast recording.

I'm astonished; LOVE NEVER DIES sounds far worse than I ever thought it would. LOVE NEVER DIES is going to be a disaster, and not an enjoyable one.

EDIT: The clips are now removed. Either Amazon put them up too early (there were some mighty big spoilers contained in those clips), or RUG became concerned about the negative reaction.

I don't see any customer reviews there. Did they get some and just delete them, or did they not get any?

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There were never any customer reviews, but there were some fairly negative reactions elsewhere.

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LOVE NEVER DIES had its first public showing tonight. Reaction--all of which has come from message boards, twitter, and other such non-official media outlets--has been mostly negative. Some of the ideas from LOVE NEVER DIES sound wacky as anything (i.e. the Phantom's lair featuring a chandelier made of Medusa heads that sings along with the Phantom during "The Beauty Underneath," a number which also features a gorilla robot and a walking skeleton robot, or the Phantom having a fully mechanical automaton of Christine which he uses as a kind of sex doll). But the big complaints apparently come from the inert story which feels patched together and awkward.

If this is the reaction of the general audience, I can't imagine what a field day the critics will have with it, especially since they've never been particularly fond of Webber.

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LOVE NEVER DIES had its first public showing tonight. Reaction--all of which has come from message boards, twitter, and other such non-official media outlets--has been mostly negative. Some of the ideas from LOVE NEVER DIES sound wacky as anything (i.e. the Phantom's lair featuring a chandelier made of Medusa heads that sings along with the Phantom during "The Beauty Underneath," a number which also features a gorilla robot and a walking skeleton robot, or the Phantom having a fully mechanical automaton of Christine which he uses as a kind of sex doll). But the big complaints apparently come from the inert story which feels patched together and awkward.

If this is the reaction of the general audience, I can't imagine what a field day the critics will have with it, especially since they've never been particularly fond of Webber.

Everything I hear about the story and the music and lyrics (but especially the story) sounds more and more and more awful. It's very naughty and immature of me to repost this, and I deserve a good scolding, but I can't resist: Scott Matthewman of the British paper The Stage tweeted "Love Never Dies = S**t Never Flushes." :D

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A German site has put up different clips of the cast recording. You can listen to them here.

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Some photos:

love-10___jpg_550x550_q85.jpg

tn-500_11747683_h10101188.jpg

tn-500_11747683_h10101190.jpg

tn-500_11747683_h10101156.jpg

More here.

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Bill Buckley gives a review:

It continues the story of the Phantom of the Opera and Christine. The Phantom has fled Paris for a new life in New York's Coney Island where he runs an amusement park and theatre. Christine has given up the stage and married a petulant alcoholic who drinks and gambles away all their funds. Without revealing his identity, the Phantom, who is still obsessed by her, offers her a vast amount of money for a one-night singing engagement. Thus she, her husband and their 10-year-old son are lured to America where poor old Phantom hopes finally to win her heart.

So far so good. After that, no good at all. The plot is unbelievable (can you swallow, for example, the idea that the Phantom had sex with Christine before releasing her to marry the boy she loved? Gaston Leroux who wrote the original story must be turning in his grave). There are no laughs - it's all shade and no light. The songs are just awful - A.L.W has forgotten how to write memorable tunes. The audience tittered at what should have been the tense dénouement. Applause throughout was lukewarm and shortlived.

I am not one of Theatreland's sneering snobs who routinely dismiss Lloyd Webber. I love Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Sunset Boulevard and the original Phantom. But please, if you are thinking of spending £50 of your hard-earned money on a West End musical, don't waste it on this bum-numbing tosh. Not when Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Wicked, Billy Elliot, Sister Act and especially Legally Blonde are around. If you want high drama, suffering and quasi opera rather than feelgood fun, catch Les Miserables. It's still doing good business after more than 24 years. Love Never Dies doesn't deserve to run for 24 days.

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Love Never Dies doesn't deserve to run for 24 days.

From his lips to God's ears . . .

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The official trailer for LOVE NEVER DIES:

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Apparently this show has been getting an enormous overhaul. Entire songs cut, numbers dramatically restaged... LOVE NEVER DIES' underperformance must have Webber spooked.

Word is, though, that the Broadway opening is still on, but that it will be in March 2011, so that Webber and co. can seriously rethink the show for a US release.

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A DVD/Blu-Ray release of LOVE NEVER DIES--taken of the significantly retooled Australian production, which met with significantly warmer reviews than the London production--comes out on May 29, following a brief theatrical run in the US. Here's an extended preview of the Australian production:

This follows on the heels of the release of the 25th anniversary production of its predecessor at Royal Albert Hall (which serves as a reasonable approximation of the original Hal Prince production of Webber's PHANTOM).

Edited by Ryan H.

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