I try to stick to the positive… so if you read my blog for writing advice or new books to read, feel free to skip over this review. No one would blame you.
Phantom of the Opera was without a doubt the most awesome music I’ve ever seen! It had everything, action, romance, suspense. and horror. After seeing it at the Wang Theater in Boston Multiple times, my first being one of the early off-broadway casts, one has to wonder, how could anything ruin such a wonderful creation.
Well… Andrew Llyod Webber found a way…
To quote an angry video game critic ‘ya done f@#$ed it up, man!’
Ugh… have you ever watch/read a story that is so great you think that it’ll be a story told for years to come. Perhaps it’s a movie, a play, or a book, where once it’s over, the first words out of your mouth are “Oh wow, instant classic!”
You think the story is perfect. The character developement is complete, all the loose ends are tied up and when the story comes to a close, everything is as it should be. It’s a perfect story with a perfect ending…
Then they come out with a sequel. A totally unnecessary sequel to a story that had no loose ends or loopholes that contains forced plot contrivances, nonsensical character developments that were totally unnecessary and offensive to the senses, and… suddenly the perfect story becomes one you never want to waste your time with again, knowing how it was continued? (Lookin at you Jurassic Park!)
Well unfortunately this happened to me with the Phantom of the Opera. As I said, this was a story was perfect, it was like an old world tragedy dealing with a demented genius who had a love for the theater. He tutored a young singer and eventually fell in love with her. However he eventually falls victim to his own madness and as a result, his love is one that can never be. Angry, he strikes back and tries to force her to marry him. When she agrees, he realized the error of his ways and releases her. It is perfect. You leave the theater thinking, “Wow, that was awesome! Even if it was the 10th time I’ve seen it. Still awesome.”
For years I think since my first time seeing it in 4th Grade, I have loved this play. It was remastered and released in a movie format (NO NOT THE ACTUAL MOVIE) for it’s 25th Anniversary on DVD. The performers were awesome, and the sets and the costumes were beautiful… again… unlike the a fore mentioned theatrical release.
Well then something awful happened… Andrew Llyod Webber, the creative genius behind this masterpiece got greedy. He decided to write a sequel, set 10 years after the original story. According to him this would be a completely new story that, while featuring the old characters and set in the same world, would be completely different from the Phantom and could be viewed without having previously watched the Phantom itself… nice way to cut out your big money maker.
Apparently he didn’t try hard enough because not only does this show feature excerpts from the Phantom, but also partial musical scores. Heck the whole story references scenes from the Phantom! HOW IS THAT SUPPOSED TO WORK!?!?
The basic plot is this… the Phantom apparently didn’t just disappear into ghost form or die, which we all thought. No, he escaped to America where he… opened a freak show carnival. You know, the same kind that he apparently escaped from. UGH!!! Then for some unexplained reason Madam and Meg Giri (reoccurring characters in the Phantom of the Opera) show up and begin working for the Phantom. Of course, by working, I mean prostituting themselves out to help pay for the carnival.
Meg, an up and coming dancer, and Madam Giri, a sophisticated ballet instructor who was clearly fearful of the phantom.
Again, for unexplained reasons, the Phantom now, 10 years later, launches a plan to lure the now-married Christine Daae to America to sing for him. He posses as a wealthy business man and sends her a letter asking her to come and sing. Well, at this point Christine is a famous opera singer with a 10 year old son and the Viscount, Raul… Yeah you remember, the hero of risked life and limb to save her in the Phantom of the Opera, the childhood friend who vowed to be there for her forever? Well now he’s is a no good drunken loser up to his eyeballs in debt and pretty much living off his wife. He apparently suspects that her son isn’t his and that she… still loves the Phantom… even though there really wasn’t any sign that she really loved the man who was manipulating her in the original play.
See this is what I mean when I say a forced sequel. You have essentially taken the hero, the man everyone looked up to, and needlessly, and unbelievably turned him into a slimy wretch who now will have to play the villainous role that he is totally ill-equipped for. Now it’s hard to watch the original because you know how this hero is going to turn out.
But wait, Andre Llyod isn’t done yet! No sir! Apparently Daae accepts the Phantom’s invitation, though completely oblivious as to who he really is. I’m not going to give everything away but let me put it this way, when she arrives, she is reunited with the Phantom, who makes a startling discovery… their son is a genius and has several qualities similar to the Phantom!!! Does that mean that maybe *gasp* HE’S ACTUALLY THE PHANTOM’S SON!?
Well Christine and the Phantom apparently think so, while Raul’s fears are coming true… Then Christine and the Phantom partake in a musical number about the magical night when their son was conceived. Wait a minute…. WHAT???? Go back and watch the Phantom! When the hell in the Phantom would she have had sex with the guy? When? When she had just met him in the dungeon at the beginning? I think not. After she saw his face? I doubt it since he wouldn’t go near her at that point! After Raul showed up? Unlikely. After he killed Boque? Hmmm… nope! So you’ve basically just created a massive plot hole in your original story!
Anyway, long story short. The Phantom uses his skills at manipulation to try to lure Christine back to him romantically. Raul in a drunken stupor bets the Phantom that he can convince her not to sing for him… the stakes? He loses Christine and their child if she sings. The Phantom pays off Raul’s debt if she doesn’t. Of course he agrees to this with full knowledge of the Phantom’s powers of manipulation. Who wouldn’t just gamble away their family? Also, the song the Devil Takes the Hindmost… really really stinks!
So at some point along the way, the Phantom reveals that he is going to leave everything to Christine’s son…. everything, meaning all the money Madam and Meg Giri worked… indecently to get for the Phantom. As you can imagine, they are not happy about it at all. Meg is especially bothered, mostly because she thought that the Phantom would love her, and it appears as though she has a psychotic episode.
Finally, the Phantom works his magic, Christine sings “Love Never Dies” and Raul leaves… yeah that’s it. He just leaves. No words, no pleading, no tearful goodbyes, he just leaves his wife and child behind! No, I’m serious, that’s it, he is never heard from again in this play!
The Phantom is beyond words happy as he has his love back. But wait, there is still one plot contrivance to go. In a fit of jealousy and anger, Meg appears with a gun and tries to shoot the Phantom. Of course she misses and hits Christine and… well that’s it really. Meg and Madam Giri don’t appear again. Anyway, in her dying moments she reveals that she still loves the Phantom and that she always has… you know, even though he lied to her, tricked her, manipulated her, almost killed her as well as the man she supposedly loved, senselessly murdered two people for no reason, and then disappeared for 10 years. She then turns to her son who is by her side and tells her the truth about who his father is. The play closes with her dying while the Phantom and his son stare at each other. At this point, the screen fades out.
My initial reaction was… WHAT THE HECK IS THIS CRAP!? You have essentially destroyed at least three characters from the original and punched multiple plot holes in the original story. Good God!
Naturally, you can imagine this travesty didn’t go over so well…
Ben Brantley of The New York Times gave it zero stars, calling the production “a big, gaudy new show. And he might as well have a “kick me” sign pasted to his backside… This poor sap of a show feels as eager to be walloped as a clown in a carnival dunking booth. Why bother, when from beginning to end, Love Never Dies is its very own spoiler.”
Quentin Letts of The Daily Mail gave the show a negative review, stating that it “is as slow to motor as a lawnmower at spring’s first cut”. He also criticized the show for lacking in storytelling and romance, stating that it “assumes that we understand the attraction these two dullards [Phantom and Raoul] have for the beautiful Christine. Could she do no better? … In the end you conclude that she simply seeks out suffering to improve her art.”
Susannah Clapp of The Observer was also critical of the book and called the show “drab” and “about as tension-filled as winding wool.” Even the musical numbers, she wrote, “never meld with the visual splendors, never give the effect, which is Lloyd Webber’s gift, of the music delivering the scenery.”
Sam Marlowe of Time Out London gave the show one out of five stars, calling it “ghastly” and “an interminable musical monstrosity”. He observes: “With its sickening swirls of video imagery, pointless plot, and protracted, repetitive songs, Love Never Dies … is punishingly wearisome.”
The show went through several rewrites and was postponed indefinitely from showing up on Broadway… yeah that’s right. A NY stage where plenty of crappy shows appear, was too good for Love Never Dies!
I would personally like to thank Andrew Llyod Webber. The wanton destruction of the beloved classic he gave us was quite extensive and complete! After watching the DVD release of this play on Youtube, I can safely say, I can never watch the Phantom again. All attempts at sitting through it have failed as I know what becomes of the characters after the curtain falls.