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I absolutely LOVE the theatre, musicals especially. Although I like living in Cumbria, I do miss the theatre - Newcastle and Manchester are a bit of a trek (although am going to see 'Wicked' in Manchester in September, can't wait!) Therefore, when I go down on trips to Essex to see my family and friends, I try to include a visit to the West End if possible.
When I heard that there was a sequel to the Phantom of the Opera (which I've seen twice in the West End), I knew that I wanted to see it, and I got my parents to book us tickets to go the day after my 30th birthday in May 2011 (which was towards the end of its run).
The three of us absolutely loved the show (and we had our cheaper seats upgraded too), thinking that it was on a par with Phantom. The set and special effects were absolutely stunning, the choreography was top rate, the music was amazing (I had got the CD prior to going to see it, so already knew it quite well), and really it was just perfect. I have absolutely NO idea why the show didn't do that well. I hope that you can sense my enthusiasm throughout this review!
I added the "Love Never Dies" DVD to my Amazon wishlist as soon as it came out (in March 2012), but I didn't get it until Christmas, a gift from my boyfriend's sister - a fellow musical lover! I watched it as soon as I had a free evening, and was reminded of what a good show it is, and how lucky I was to see it at the theatre. However, I have to say that I was surprised (and slightly disappointed) when I first watched it as I was expecting a recording of the London production, not the Melbourne production.
"Love Never Dies" was firstly a book written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton, telling the story of what happens after the Phantom of the Opera (so it would be useful to see that before this, or to at least have an idea of the story). The music for the show is of course written by Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Glenn Slater and additional lyrics by Charles Hart.
The show opened in the West End March 2010 (at the Adelphi theatre which Lloyd Webber was fined for illegally painting black!), and apparently closed for 4 days in November 2010 for substantial rewrites and some new direction. It closed in August 2011. I am so glad that I got to see it when I did, as otherwise I'd have had to rely on this DVD, which while good is not the same! Love Never Dies did do better in Australia (which is perhaps why the DVD is the Australian show), but it never made it to Broadway which was the original plan. It was showing in Melbourne in 2011, and Sydney in the first half of 2012, before ending for good.
I repeat again, I really can't comprehend why it didn't do very well! My parents and myself (and other friends who saw it) thought that it was a perfect follow up to Phantom. Mind you, I also loved "The Beautiful Game", another musical by Lloyd Webber (with lyrics by Ben Elton), which also didn't do very well. Interestingly, one of the songs from The Beautiful Game, "Our Kind of Love" was given new lyrics and became the main song in Love Never Dies (called "Love Never Dies"). I knew I recognised it whilst listening to the CD before seeing the show, and looked it up online to find out - Lloyd Webber does like to reuse his songs sometimes!
Love Never Dies is set in 1907 (roughly 10 years after the end of Phantom). Christine Daaé is mysteriously invited to Coney Island (Brooklyn, New York) to perform at Phantasma. So, she leaves Manhattan with her husband Raoul and son Gustav.....where she will hopefully sing once more!
Of course it is the Phantom who is behind this. Having escaped from Paris to New York, he fits in well at Coney Island with the freak shows and the like, but he won't be complete again until he is back with Christine.
What follows is a story, focused mainly around the love triangle of Christine, Raoul and the Phantom, with the added dimension of the son Gustave. Madame Giry and Meg are returning characters from the Phantom of the Opera. It is very dark, but at the same time light with the glamour and glitz of Coney Island - as my DVD case says it's "Beautiful and haunting" which I think sums it up well. I won't give away too much of the story, but can say that the end is most likely to have you crying if you're involved with the characters. It is a tragic, yet fitting end to the Phantom story.
---The DVD, and more about the show!---
The DVD is of the Love Never Dies production at Melbourne's Regent Theatre - it runs for just over 2 hours....so sit down with a glass of wine (or two) and make yourself comfortable! That's what I'm doing while I watch it for the second time...
The music in Love Never Dies is stunning from start to finish, starting with the Phantom (played by Ben Lewis) singing a beautiful piece "Til I hear you sing", one of my favourites, and one which brings a lump to my throat. At the time I saw "Love Never Dies", I was suffering with a properly broken heart, so I think this song gets to me even more.
Then we move onto "The Coney Island Waltz" where we are introduced to Squelch, Fleck and Gangle (three 'freaks') and the Ensemble. There are some differences from what I saw in the West End, such as Fleck being portrayed as a dwarf in the Australian version. Visually this performance is stunning as we see the cast doing various circus acts and acrobatics (but it is NOT as stunning as what I saw in London). It has a sort of creepy Moulin Rouge type feel about it. Then we meet the "Ooh-La- La girls", lead by Meg Giry (played by Sharon Millerchip). I think that their songs, namely "Bathing Beauty" bring some lightness to the show! Then we move onto Madame Giry (played by Maria Mercedes) who gives a bit more background to what has happened in the past 10 years, before we meet Christine (played by Anna O'Byrne), Raoul (played by Simon Gleeson) and Gustave who arrive in New York met by crowds of paparazzi.
Really I could talk through the whole show song by song, but this would get very long and boring, and I really just want to give the gist of it. The renditions of "Once Upon Another Time" sung by Christine and the Phantom, and "Look with your Heart" sung by Christine and Gustave are highlights for me. I particularly love the lyrics in "Look with your Heart", to quote "Look with your heart and not with your eyes. The heart understands. The heart never lies. Believe what it feels, and trust what it shows. Look with your heart; the heart always knows. Love is not always beautiful, not at the start. But open your arms, and close your eyes tight. Look with your heart and when it finds love, your heart will be right."
This production of Love Never Dies is different from what I saw in the West End. But since my memory isn't great it's hard to recall exactly where the differences lie. It would've been helpful if I'd written a review of the West End production directly after seeing it! The set certainly has differences though, and I don't feel it's as bright and colourful as what I saw on stage. I don't think that it's nearly as spectacular as what I saw in London which is a shame.
That said Love Never Dies does work well on DVD as a film of a staged show (I think it works better than the DVD of Les Mis that I have), and I think this has been filmed well, with some good up close shots. However, I think that the production that I saw live was better than this one, and I don't think I'm just biased because it's better when seeing something live.. Although Ben Lewis plays the Phantom well, I don't think he's quite as good as Ramin Karimloo was in London. I have also listened to the CD of Love Never Dies frequently (although not at all recently), and think that on the whole the cast who sing on the CD sound better. I do think that the child that plays Gustave in this DVD version is very good, as are Christine and Raoul. On the flip side I think that Madame Giry could be better. Of course this is merely my personal opinion!
One thing that I did like in this version is that I think that there were a few more musical links between this and the Phantom of the Opera (extracts of songs etc), or perhaps I'm just noticing it more on the DVD. On the whole the music in Love Never Dies is quite different from the Phantom. I suppose this does mean though that you won't necessarily like Love Never Dies because you liked the Phantom - perhaps this can account for some of the negative reviews.
This DVD contains a bonus feature of "The Making of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies" which lasts 14 minutes. This is worth a watch for fans of the show, but not something you'll want to watch more than once. It's particularly interesting learning about the sheer scale of the costumes needed for the production!
If you love the Phantom of the Opera and didn't get a chance to see Love Never Dies at the theatre, I would highly recommend checking out this DVD. If you've not seen the Phantom, then there really isn't that much point. I would recommend this to those who like me did get to see the show at the theatre, unless of course you didn't enjoy it. Personally though I think that the whole show is amazing, and the music is one of my favourites of any musical. I enjoy watching this DVD, and it's nice to have a little sing along too - I have to admit to putting on the subtitles to do this (I should note that the DVD has subtitles in numerous languages).
This DVD (which has a PG rating according to Amazon, my DVD says nothing on it) can be bought new on Amazon for £6, or the Blu-ray can be purchased for £9.
4 out of 5 stars from me. I would have given a DVD of the London production 5 stars!