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Love Never Dies Australian production fan reviews 
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Post Love Never Dies Australian production fan reviews
I saw that there hadn't been a thread started yet. If this is considered redundant or worthless then please PM me and I'll have the thread closed down.

I saw the show in Melbourne on the weekend. I obviously knew a bit about it going in, but I actually deliberately didn't listen to the London cast album or watch too much stuff on YouTube as I wanted to go in reasonably open rather than comparing every word and note from the outset, as apparently the Australian version is a bit different anyway.

Basically, I came out confused by what I'd just watched and how I felt about it. I want to stress that visually this show is brilliant and it deserves to win whatever technical awards it's nominated for. The performances were great even though Christine and the Phantom appeared much too youthful - and they both seemed noticeably younger than Raoul, somehow, even if in ages the actors weren't too distant. I just didn't think that much of the story itself, and obviously how much you emotionally engage will depend on where you fall on the "Christine + Erik 4eva!!" sliding scale. So it was a story that I didn't particularly get into, but told in a visually amazing manner. That I don't know what to think of it is my personal failing, and I'm aware of that. Seriously, it was like seeing a delicious chocolate cake and eating a piece but it tastes like spaghetti. Completely weird and you don't know how to objectively assess the experience.

One reason I didn't listen to the London cast album was because I wanted to see how the show stood for me music-wise, hearing/seeing it for the first time, and which tunes stood out in my memory when it was over. The ones I remember three days on are "Till I Hear You Sing", the "Moonless Sky" one, "Beauty Underneath", "Love Never Dies" and "Bathing Beauty". Some of them got reprised endlessly which probably helped, but I did like them regardless. I know we were also probably supposed to remember Christine's "Listen with Your Heart" type song (I know that's not the title) but I so don't, ditto for the second big duet that Christine and Erik sing after "Moonless Sky". Having said that, none of the music was awful. There were no moments where I was all "This is the stupidest thing I've heard lately". Some of it just wasn't particularly memorable on a cold first listen.

As I keep saying, in terms of visuals the Australian production is amazing. On an overall meta level, it captured the same ambience that Phantom does: Coney Island is as much a presence and character in the story as the opera house was in the first show. There's always something to look at, and I liked the way the stage was framed with an art nouveau roller coaster (with moving parts, lots of times the actors walked across it and the main centre section raised and lowered at different times, and played the role of the pier in the final scene) in the way the stage in the first show is framed with the opera house loggia. I do have to say though if art nouveau is not your thing then this is not the show for you - but you would probably be aware of that going in, giving the setting of the story. Also, Christine's "Love Never Dies" peacock dress is the most beautiful costume I have seen in my entire life.

Some scenes look significantly different to the promotional videos of the London production on YouTube. "Beauty Underneath", for instance, doesn't have a giant gorilla playing drums with its feet, and the Phantom's opening number has a giant moving portrait of Christine, not an animatronic doll played by the actress. "Beauty Underneath" actually looks effing amazing, with the Phantom prowling around Gustave amongst a room of moving glass cases filled with grotesque/beautiful "freaks". Even if, out of context, the song is maybe unintentionally uncomfortable, with a mysterious adult male trying to seduce a young boy into trusting him and his world. It's still amazing and I would buy a DVD just so I could watch this scene a lot.

"Unintentionally uncomfortable" in fact covers a lot of the plot content. As I said, how much you like the story will depend on how you feel about Christine and the Phantom as a romantic pairing. I don't like it, so I know that fundamentally I am biased against a show that presents theirs as the one true and supreme love. I think the storytelling problem is that for whatever reason - maybe it's just too hard in a musical - it could have been so much better.

There is the basis for a compelling, complicated and emotive story here. It would be possible to present Love Never Dies as the story of a woman who 10 years ago went through this emotional ordeal of being stalked and haunted by an obsessive and manipulative lunatic, culminating in said lunatic threatening to murder her boyfriend if she didn't return his feelings, but said ordeal being complicated by her emotional fragility and the sheer weirdness of the situation, and the fact that after she made the decision to sacrifice herself to save said boyfriend the stalker than unexpectedly redeemed himself by making good on the deal and releasing her into the bargain. So in the intervening 10 years, as she's had her marriage to a loving, respectful and equal partner, built a loving family, and established a career as an artist, maybe it's been there in her mind that she could have taken the other path, and the way you romanticise things that at the time were horrifying it's tempting to buy into the fantasy of being the beautiful muse of this dark and twisted genius, the light to his darkness, etc, etc. And so it's not that she's been unhappy, but when the Phantom re-enters her life, she suddenly has to make (again) this difficult choice as to where she's going to go in her life, knowing that any choice is going to hurt people, be extremely difficult, and that she may regret it in the end.

But Love Never Dies doesn't go there. Love Never Dies takes the 'Twilight' approach: this is the romantic pairing, they are meant for each other, they are the supreme true love of all time and, um, don't question it, okay? The decision was also made to make Christine's marriage a distinctly unhappy one, with Raoul now an emotionally abusive and controlling alcoholic. That isn't in and of itself a bad choice, and it's a totally understandable one if you assume the creative team were worried that the audience would hate Christine if she dumped a perfectly nice husband for the Phantom. But in many ways <i>that</i> would have been the much more interesting story, because it wouldn't be about making black and white decisions, it would be about Christine deciding between two genuine loves, rather than - as the director's notes put it - "a choice between passion and respectability".

In their first scene together (which was unintentionally hilarious as the music swells orgasmically, the Phantom sweeps in through the hotel balcony window and Christine faints, thus demonstrating that the Phantom is yet to master the art of walking into a room without totally upsetting people) the Phantom demonstrates that you can't teach an old dog new tricks and the way to get a girl to do what you want is to threaten someone she loves. He then later plaintively begs her to sing for him because she's the only thing that brings meaning to his life and the only thing that's keeping him alive, even though they haven't seen each other for 10 years and he's the one that chucked her. Maybe deeply romantic, maybe creepy and manipulative. Your call.

It wouldn't be so bad except the musical leaves itself wide open to having the audience go "hang on, wtf?" It would be completely possible for a love story to begin with a man threatening to kidnap a woman's child if she doesn't stay and sing for him and end with her dying in his arms singing about how deeply she loves him... as long as somewhere along the way there was also an acknowledgement that this was a complicated emotional step to make. Except as I said it's like 'Twilight' in that there isn't any acknowledgement of the dark, complex and uncomfortable subtexts to the relationship. It just is and you're supposed to go "Aww" and wipe away a tear. (Also I won't give away details but the impact of the ending was kind of spoiled by the fact that you could make a good argument for the Phantom causing Christine's death by being an idiot.)

I'm aware this review has been just about my fan opinion on Love Never Dies as a concept as on Love Never Dies as a production. But I guess that's kind of inevitable, and a lot of fan assessment has been like this. And even though my opinions on whether I even liked the show or not are completely confused (I feel weird saying I didn't given it looked so amazingly beuatiful) I would recommend it to Phantom fans who can afford to see it, just because I think it's going to be one where you can't go by someone else's opinion on its worth, just your own.


Last edited by KristinT on Mon Nov 14, 2011 3:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Nov 13, 2011 5:55 pm
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Tony Winner
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Post Re: Love Never Dies Australian production fan reviews
Very interesting to read, and though I have only seen video clips of the Aussie production it correspond with my view on it.

I think basically all reviewers in London pointed out the flaws of the libretto (story and lyrics). It was tweaked a bit throughout the run, but nothing major was ever changed. I was sure that when the production headed for Australia, they would do a major overhaul of the libretto. But no. And I cannot for my bare life understand why. There are major issues which needs to be dealt with, but it seems like there's a "do not touch" label on the libretto. And it's a pity, cause it's there the problems lies. Not in the music, though it drags a bit. Not in the design (not even in London). Definitely not in the casts, despite the anachronisms. Not in the orchestra. Nope, the storyline and the flat lyrics that tells the story is the key issue.

This musical won't survive Broadway for a month if this isn't dealt with. I just don't understand what it takes to convince Andrew Lloyd Webber about this. But as long as the people around him keeps telling him that the negative reception of the musical is due to fake reviews, mentally unstable fans and/or jealous people, we won't really get anywhere.

That said, the Aussie production is a step in the right direction. Just a pity they spoilt a major chance to get it RIGHT, instead of just improving a bad product. The musical itself could have been epic when it opened in London. Cause the source material is promising*. But they seemed too sure on success because the score was considered outstanding, and because it carried the Phantom label. It's like they didn't even try to make a decent libretto. I think that's what annoys me the most about "Love Never Dies".

(*by source material I do NOT mean "Phantom of Manhattan"... rather the basic idea of Coney Island and New York, and also the score... and the potential for fantastic design).

Thank you for interesting first-hand thoughts. I will definitely see the DVD when it's released, if only for the design and the cast.

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Mon Nov 14, 2011 3:58 am
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Post Re: Love Never Dies Australian production fan reviews
I do have a question about the ending: is it intentional in this version? (I entirely agree that it can be seen as the Phantom's fault. He's a idiot in that scene.)

Personally, I enjoy the score of the version in Melbourne more than that of Phantom of the Opera, although it definitely drags at points, especially in the section where That Long Ago Night/Beneath a Moonless Sky/Once Upon Another Time basically repeats in three separate songs in one go. Look With Your Heart strikes me a a "Oh, Christine hasn't sung yet" song, and should be discarded. At least Christine's final part doesn't seem to drag as much as originally.

I certainly will be getting the DVD, even if just to skip to my favourite scenes.


Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:19 am
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Post Re: Love Never Dies Australian production fan reviews
@operafantomnet: See, I'd assumed, before I did a bit of online research, that it would have been the other way around: some reworking on the libretto but the show fundamentally looking the same. And I have definitely not been under the impression that the original London show was poorly designed, quite the opposite, but a few people have mentioned that the Australian production looks a bit different in some respects. So it's interesting that they've been reluctant to touch the libretto. I have bought the London cast album, but haven't listened to it yet, so it will be fun to compare the two.

The show seems to have done pretty well here, they extended the Melbourne season once and it's moving to Sydney in the new year. I don't think some of the small cities are going to get it but that doesn't mean a show's doing badly, just that the powers that be feel it's too big and expensive to move it. Lion King didn't go everywhere either and that sold out and everyone raved about it. The audience I saw Love Never Dies with were certainly enthusiastic in the applause department. And the cast did a very very good job. The fact that Phantom and Christine seemed too young is my personal gripe and doesn't mean anything.

@Mungojerrie_RT: Okay, I know that anybody who's bothering to read this will already know the plot of Love Never Dies, but as a courtesy here is a SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!

Was the shooting intentional in the London version?? Wow. Ha. I can understand some of the stuff I've read about fans hating what the story does to Meg if that's the case. No, it's not intentional in this version. Or if it is, I missed it. Meg's at the end of the pier with the gun. The Phantom is facing her. Christine and Gustave are behind the Phantom, Madame Giry is behind Christine and Gustave. The Phantom does his epic fail at talking down the crazy girl with the gun - I was seriously not expecting that line, and very nearly groaned in a "what the ----, why did they write that?" kind of way. Meg sobs "Christine, Christine, ALWAYS CHRISTINE!!" and then... well, she kind of flailed the gun in what I would say was an aimless manner, definitely not like she was aiming it at Christine. The Phantom tried to grab it, they tussled and then the gun goes off and somehow the bullet hits Christine. Meg seemed distraught and shocked to me, screaming and crying "No, no", and Madame Giry grabbed her and they ran away off the pier.

Also, yes, I'm glad that wasn't just me being a philistine who thought it was a bit odd that the hotel scene dragged on so long. I enjoyed the way the set rotated after Christine fled out to the balcony, but when they started on 'Once Upon Another Time' I did pause for a second and go "Hang on, didn't they just do the big duet for this scene?"


Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:55 am
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Post Re: Love Never Dies Australian production fan reviews
KristinT wrote:
@operafantomet: See, I'd assumed, before I did a bit of online research, that it would have been the other way around: some reworking on the libretto but the show fundamentally looking the same. And I have definitely not been under the impression that the original London show was poorly designed, quite the opposite, but a few people have mentioned that the Australian production looks a bit different in some respects. So it's interesting that they've been reluctant to touch the libretto. I have bought the London cast album, but haven't listened to it yet, so it will be fun to compare the two.


Yes, the London and Melbourne production is as night and day, design wise. But though I much prefer Melbourne, the London design was in no way bad. And it was definitely not what stopped the production from become a smash hit, though Andrew Lloyd Webber seems to think that. I think he even said as much in an interview. The designer in London (Bob Crowley) was the same who did the sets and costumes for "Mary Poppins".

Have in mind that the LND album with Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess is a concept album more than a cast album. It was recorded before the London production opened, and the show was different when it officially premiered. In the CD the show mirrors the structure of Phantom, for example with a retrospective opening scene lamenting "the big disaster" - it was supposed to be a big fire burning down Coney Island. Some of these things were trimmed or even cut when they started working with the show on stage. If I remember correctly a couple of the songs also switched place after the first big "re-writing". Also, the CD features another Madame Giry.

So it's more like the 1976 concept album of Evita than the 1979 complete Broadway cast recording of Evita, if you get me. It's fully recognizable, but it's not what was seen on stage eventually.

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Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:19 am
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Post Re: Love Never Dies Australian production fan reviews
Quote:
He's a idiot in that scene.)


Now that I've had more time to think about, the Phantom was actually an idiot in a couple of places, definitely more so than the badass evil "oh god he's everywhere" presence than he was in 'Phantom'. I knew going in that 'Beauty Underneath' ended with the Phantom being unmasked and Gustave freaking the eff out, but for some reason I just assumed that the scene would mirror the unmasking in the first show, with Gustave all pumped up and excited by the Phantom's going on and on about seeing the beauty underneath etc etc, and he'd rip the mask off the Phantom himself. But no, the Phantom does it himself, with the expected effect. Poor Phantom. Clearly hasn't learned a thing in TEN! LONG!! YEARS!!! I heard a bit of audience giggling in that moment.


Mon Nov 14, 2011 3:12 pm
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