Eagerly awaited Phantom of the Opera sequel gives fans answers while also offering an original story for new audiences
After seven productions of The Phantom of the Opera in Denver, Love Never Dies comes as a welcome sequel for those fans who were left with questions about what happened next. Where did the Phantom go after escaping from the mob? Was he ever able to get over Christine or did he spend the rest of his life pining for her? And did Christine and Raoul go on to have a happy marriage or was she always plagued with thoughts of “what if” she had chosen a darker, riskier and more uncertain path? This dramatic sequel provides the long-awaited answers.
Andrew Lloyd Webber initially got the idea to write a sequel to Phantom simply because he missed the characters of the Phantom and Christine. He thought long and hard about how the characters’ lives would have continued following the fall of that fateful chandelier and knew immediately that the Phantom would have left France. But where would he have gone? Given the era and his disfigurement there was only one logical conclusion — Coney Island.
Love Never Dies takes place at the turn of the century, ten years after the events at the Paris Opera House. Christine Daaé accepts an offer to come to America and perform at a Coney Island amusement park called Phantasma. After arriving in New York with her husband and son, she quickly discovers the identity of the mysterious impresario who invited her to come from France to sing.
Love Never Dies has certainly had an unconventional journey to becoming the show that it is today. It was not well-received when it first opened on the West End in March 2010. While the original cast was said to be extremely talented, many critics said the script felt convoluted and accused Lloyd Webber of trying to cash in on the success of Phantom. David Benedict, a critic for Variety wrote in 2010, “Only a radical rewrite will give [Love Never Dies] even the remotest chance of emulating its predecessor.” In an unprecedented turn of events, Lloyd Webber did exactly that.
For six weeks, he worked along with original co-writer Ben Elton to rewrite the script, giving it some much needed coherence. Charles Hart, the original lyricist for Phantom, also was brought in to change the cadences of some lines, making the lyrics clearer for the audience. Hart also added more melodic callbacks to the show’s predecessor, giving it more tonal consistency with Phantom. The musical went through extensive overhaul until Lloyd Webber, a known perfectionist, was finally satisfied. The show was then shut down for three weeks to rehearse the new material and create a new set.
Love Never Dies reopened in November 2010, garnering more enthusiastic reviews. In truth, the show’s “rewrite” was more of a successful reordering. Those who saw both renditions of the show agreed that just by changing the order of some songs and altering the staging in a few scenes, the story was easier to follow and the characters became more sympathetic. Love Never Dies began receiving standing ovations and its negative reputation was gradually replaced. Critic Mark Shenton wrote in his review for The Stage newspaper, “The show I saw last night is the one that they should have opened with.”
On its way to the U.S., Lloyd Webber took the musical to Australia where it was re-worked again, this time by an Australian creative team. The new tour was an even bigger success and was described by Chris Boyd in The Australian as “The best thing Lloyd Webber has written in the quarter century since The Phantom of the Opera.” It has gone on tour internationally nearly every year since then, including productions in Copenhagen, Vienna, Tokyo and Hamburg.
The U.S. touring production of Love Never Dies is truly a spectacle to behold. Nick Schlieper creates dazzling light displays, using more than 4,000 lightbulbs to impersonate the carnivalesque lighting at Coney Island. The elaborate sets designed by Gabriela Tylesova are highly inventive. Throughout the show she recreates the appearance of a roller coaster with pieces of scaffolding and curved sculptures. Sometimes, the action is framed by a stylized archway that invokes the Phantom’s mask. And Graeme Murphy’s choreography becomes mesmerizing as performers interact with moving set pieces. Dancers sit atop a revolving carousel, which appears in the song “Are You Ready to Begin?” and materialize inside the mirrors in “The Beauty Underneath.”
One of the most iconic images from this show though, is the peacock dress worn by Christine in the title song. This 23-pound dress took an impressive 250 hours to create. It has more than 150 blue fabric feathers and hidden handles in the skirt that the actress uses to pick it up when she runs. It’s a dazzling sight to see Christine wear this costume while standing in front of a backdrop of peacock tail feathers.
While Love Never Dies is intended to be a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, those who haven’t seen its predecessor can still enjoy it. But those who have seen Phantom will recognize returning musical motifs including “Angel of Music” and “Masquerade.” Ultimately though, Love Never Dies is meant to be a gift to those whose curiosity soared as high as Christine’s highest, lilting note.
Savannah Nichols is an Arvada native, a graduate of Denver School of the Arts and was a summer intern with the DCPA Communications Department. She studies Public Relations at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.
Love Never Dies Ticket information
- Creators: Producer, Composer, Book and Orchestrations by Andrew Lloyd Webber; Lyrics and Book by Glenn Slater; Book by Ben Elton and Frederick Forsyth
- Dates: October 23-28
- Where: Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
- Information: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
- Groups: Call 800-641-1222
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