Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Review of "Love Never Dies" with *Spoilers*

I've been meaning to write this for a while now but haven't gotten around to it. I've seen "Phantom of the Opera" the Broadway version, as well as the movie starring Gerard Butler. I've not gotten a chance yet to read the novel but I plan to someday. Oh, and I also saw the recorded performance of "Phantom" at the Royal Albert Hall, you can buy it on DVD as well. Anyway, when I first heard that there would be a sequel to one of the longest running shows on Broadway, I was super excited. I didn't really know what to expect though. I knew it was to take place several years after the "original", but the story line itself I was completely clueless on.

My boyfriend actually took me to the movie theater to see a recorded performance of "Love Never Dies". The opening sequence was great - of course the Phantom might have trouble writing music without his muse, and the love of his life - it was just beautiful. I love all of the music from the original Phantom of the Opera - Andrew Llyod Webber is really a genius composer. Honestly though, I think they opened "Love Never Dies" with the best song they had. When the show released, I know it had mixed reviews. Now, you could go and see the show without ever having seen the original and that would probably be okay. But, if you have seen the original Phantom of the Opera, then you might find yourself feeling a little let down by the so-called sequel.

Let me just say that the singing was beautiful, the composition and the music was beautiful, and the setting was interesting. On the other hand, the story line was ridiculous, the time period did not match up with that of the previous show, and the lyrics left something to be desired. If I could give one word to describe the show "Love Never Dies" it would be this: Fan Fiction. And not the good kind either. It's the kind of fan fiction that amateurs write about on websites. The kind that would never ever get published as an actual book (unlike "Fifty Shades of Gray").

The directions that the characters have taken in this "sequel" are not impossible, but they are certainly IMPROBABLE. Let me just explain the plot to you and I'll dispense some information about the characters individually as I go along. I'll also compare them to their behaviors in the original performance of Phantom.

First, we have Christine. In Phantom she was a chorus girl/ballet dancer who rose to stardom because of her wonderful voice (thanks to her Tutor a.k.a the Phantom). She was passionate about music, and she loved her father (her "one companion"). Then she's reunited with her childhood friend Raoul, who has just become the new owner of the Opera House. They seem to have a pretty deep connection and he reminds her of a better time when her father was still alive. Raoul even has a nickname for her "Little Lotti". Still, Christine is enchanted by the mysterious Phantom of the Opera and she goes to his lair where he shows her his music and professes his love to her. But, she tears off his mask only to reveal that half of his face is disfigured. It's pretty clear that she cares about the Phantom (as a student might care for their teacher), but romantically she's totally head over heels for Raoul. It's no surprise when they get engaged and run off together away from the craziness that's going on at the Opera House. A few months later, the Phantom reappears having written an entire Opera that Christine is to star in. The Opera House agrees to go along with it, and so does Christine, so they can stop the Phantom from harassing them and from killing anyone else. Even though Christine cares for the Phantom and feels sorry for him, she is also really scared of him and what he can do. He's already murdered, lied, kidnapped, stolen, and made demands. In the end, Christine's love for Raoul is what saves him, and by sharing that love with the Phantom, she and Raoul are set free. The Phantom tells them to forget him and everything that's happened and they can go live Happily Ever After. Their parting and goodbyes really did seem like the end. A sequel was just unnecessary as there were no loose ends to tie up.

Christine in "Love Never Dies", is supposed to be ten years older. But she seems none the wiser. In fact, she seems more naive than she has been previously. For someone that was so head over heels in love with Raoul, she apparently went back to visit the Phantom and they had sex (more than once). First of all, how did she know where to find the Phantom? He totally disappeared after the closing song. Second, why would she want to sleep with someone other than Raoul? Especially since that person has murdered other people and kidnapped her on more than one occasion. The idea that the Phantom and Christine ever slept together is just preposterous. After everything that he put her through, she was clearly in love with Raoul more than ever. I don't think she would ever cheat on him. If there was ever a moment where the Phantom and Christine might have slept together, I'd say it would've been the night she first came to his lair. Before she knew he was disfigured, before she knew how cruel he was, and before she knew that he was obsessed about her. "Beneath a Moonless Sky" (the song that explains this event) just sounds like a fantasy or, as I've said before, "fan fiction". Plus, Christine says during the song that she would have chosen to be with the Phantom but he ran off. If anyone was to leave it would totally have been Christine and NOT the Phantom. He loved her/was obsessed with her. Plus, she was probably his "first". I don't think he would have just run off after a one-night-stand of losing his virginity. Anyway, back to Christine. By the end of "Love Never Dies" we're to assume that she chooses music (and the Phantom) over Raoul - I think the Phantom had also kidnapped her son by this point. We're also supposed to assume that Meg and Christine aren't really that close anymore, and Meg's crazy ass is the one who ultimately shoots her in the end. By the end of the show, I swear, you'll feel like you're watching a soap opera that just happens to have famous opera characters as the stars.

Next, let's talk about the Phantom. In the original production, the Phantom was a little boy who wore a bag over his face and was forced to work at a freak-show/carnival. People would come and look at his face and he would be laughed at. In some versions, Madam Giry is the one who rescues him from the carnival and takes him back to the Opera House where she was a young ballerina at the time. If you've seen the movie with Gerard Butler, than you know the Phantom made his first kill (the carnival owner) when he was just a boy. He later kills the janitor guy for making fun of him, and he also kills Carlotta's lover/husband Piangi so that he can take his place in the final opera sequence. I'm not trying to excuse his actions or anything, but nobody told the Phantom that killing = wrong. He's never been told the rules of the world (kind of like Frankenstein's monster) so he doesn't really know better. Even though he's a grown man, he lashes out like a child when he doesn't get what he wants (ex. he whines about box 5 being his and he messes with Carlotta's voice because she didn't do what he said). His murderous behavior and his trickery (which he believes he does all for Christine) are what make him unlovable (according to Christine) - it's not his face but his "soul" in which "the true distortion lies". Christine is the first person to ever show the Phantom any kind of affection, and by one simple kiss he comes to the conclusion that he should stop harassing her and let her live her life with her future hubby Raoul. He lets them go, then runs off by himself. Even 10years later I don't think he would still be trying to mess up her married life with Raoul. He might be a killer, but I'd say he's a man of his word. He told them to forget about him, so why drag them back into his life? In "Love Never Dies" he's also running his own freak-show/carnival. And even though he calls the "freaks" beautiful underneath, I sincerely doubt that after his traumatic childhood he would have anything at all to do with that kind of business. It's just unfathomable. Plus, he's supposed to be some super rich business man now, and I just don't see that happening either. If anything, the Phantom would have run off and lived his life in solitude or tried to find someone LIKE Christine that might love him for who he is, having no knowledge of the cruel behavior he had while at the Opera House.

As for the Phantom "hooking up" with Christine, I really doubt that he'd let anyone truly touch him even if it was dark or "beneath a moonless" sky. I've already talked about this in the Christine paragraphs but I just want to add on to it a little bit more. The Phantom had no affection his entire life, except for when Christine kissed him. Clearly he has some deep psychological issues. Other than killing people, he's never really touched anyone. So for him to say that he had sex (repetitively) with Christine, I just don't see him being all that intimate. It would have taken him a long time and lots of coaxing to be able to sleep with someone. Plus, if he didn't have his mask on he would just feel even more naked than he already did. (He left his mask at the end of the original show, so he maybe had to buy or make a new one?) He might have been mysterious and seductive throughout "Music of the Night" and "The Point of No Return", but he was all talk and no action. Every time Christine ever touched him or caressed him, he totally would lose his shit. So if anything, he probably would have had a heart attack or something if she was ever to be naked in front of him - let alone have sex with him. Also, even after 10years, and even supposing he learned that killing was bad - he's still alone. Yet, in "Love Never Dies" the Phantom does nothing malicious or cruel. The worst thing he does is kidnap Christine's son, and try to make her choose between him and Raoul. That's it. He's just been reduced to a pathetic character. People just aren't afraid of him anymore, and that kind of takes away a huge chunk of what the Phantom was supposed to symbolize.

Third, we have Raoul. the Viscount who took over ownership/became a patron of the Opera house. He was a childhood crush/close friend to Christine. They hadn't seen each other for many years until he was reunited with her at the Opera. He loved her singing, and he's a pretty good singer himself (even if he isn't a performer at the Opera House). Raoul is supposed to be cute, charming, wealthy, and he seems like a nice guy. He wants to protect Christine and offers her a better life away from the Opera. Obviously he loves her and wants to marry her, and he never gives a shit what anyone else thinks about him. Plus, if you've seen the movie version, you know that Raoul is good with a sword. So it's not like he can't physically go up against the Phantom in order to protect his beloved. In both "the Phantom of the Opera" and "Love Never Dies", Raoul is referred to as the Viscount, rather than the Count. So either there was an error with the second show, or Raoul's parents are still alive after ten years have passed. He's such a good guy in the first production, that it's really difficult to believe in the person he's become by the time "Love Never Dies" occurs.

In the "sequel", Raoul is portrayed as a drunk, whose lost all of his money gambling (?) and he's deep in debt. He apparently never gives affection to Christine anymore, and he says he isn't that great with music. Plus, he's pretty detached from his son as well. We're also to assume that Raoul is a giant pussy who has no confidence in himself. For further reference, listen to the song "Devil Take the Hind Most", where he's willing to lose Christine if the Phantom will pay off all his debts. After all of the fighting he's done in the first production, why would Raoul just give up on Christine (the love of his life) like that? Why would he just leave her and their son to the devices of the Phantom whom he's hated for years? In the end, Raoul just walks away and lets the Phantom win (in "Love Never Dies"). Then he magically reappears when Christine is dying. He doesn't really try to save her, he just cries about it because she apparently has chosen the Phantom over him. Plus, he is also forced to realize that his son is really the Phantom's son. He's been cheated on and lied to. Were the story to continue it would just be about the Phantom and Raoul raising a son together, or fighting over custody of him. Either way, the melodramatic plot and the predictability of it all just screams SOAP OPERA to me (or Fan Fiction).
The last couple of characters that I want to mention (since they were in the original Phantom of the Opera) are Madam Giry, and Meg. I'm going to combine their biographies together because there isn't a whole lot to say about them. In the original Phantom of the Opera, Madam Giry was in charge of the ballerinas. She was a ballerina herself when she was younger, and she's said to have brought the Phantom to the opera house in the first place. She's always known Christine to be a good singer, and she's the only other person who knows that Christine's "tutor" is really the Phantom. I think that Madam Giry always wanted Christine and the Phantom to be together, but she never acted like she hated Raoul. In fact, she gave him some life saving advice "keep your hand at the level of your eyes" and even showed him where the Phantom's lair was. In "Love Never Dies", she's pretty much the same character. Except this time she's working for the Phantom at his carnival/freak-show. She's still spending a lot of time with her daughter Meg, but other than that nothing really has changed. Although it doesn't sound likely that Madam Giry would work for the Phantom (she always seemed scared of him, yet protective of him), it's not impossible that her ballet instructor career would take her to different locations and types of dancers. Then again, I'm not sure after ten years that she'd still be putting up with the demands of the Phantom. She seems like she wouldn't take shit from anyone.

Meg, on the other hand, is probably the character who is LEAST like herself when comparing Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies. In the original show, Meg was an awesome ballerina with her mom being the instructor. She was also Christine's best friend. She didn't understand the "angel of music" thing but it always seemed to interest her in someway (she's the one who finds the Phantom's mask in the very last sequence). Even after the demise of the Opera House, Meg could have gone on to be a famous ballerina in any ballet production. Instead, according to the plot of "Love Never Dies", Meg became a dancer and SINGER in the Phantom's carnival/freak-show. Apparently she's always been jealous of Christine and wants to be a famous singer herself. She's also bitter with mother, and has some secret love or crush on the Phantom himself. What??? No where in the first production did Meg show any inclination that she was "in love" with the Phantom. And now, after everything he has done - to the Opera, to her co-workers, and to her best friend - she thinks they can have a romantic love affair? Right.....Plus, Meg was supposedly an amazing dancer. Why would she just give that all up to be a mediocre singer? She didn't have to sing to be in the spotlight. She'd easily have been recognized for her talents if she'd kept on dancing. 

Even harder to belief than Meg's love for the Phantom, is the fact that she is apparently a PSYCHOPATH. Yep, Meg Giry - the little ballerina girl - is a psycho in "Love Never Dies". She kidnaps Christine's son (threatening to kill him via drowning), frequently drinks at the pub, swims by herself (in a time when "witches" were those who swam), and she somehow gets her hand on a gun. I don't remember if she kills herself or not, but she certainly is the reason that Christine dies. After Meg has a psychotic break and she's crying and waving her gun around, she accidentally shoots Christine (her best friend) ending her life. She also reveals her love to the Phantom, and somewhere in there mentions that she worked as a prostitute. I just can't really picture the sweet little ballerina of the first production, becoming so dark. She could have had any man she wanted so why settle for the Phantom? But, if she HAD gone to the dark side, I guess they would be perfect for each other (that is, if he could ever love her back since her singing in no way compares to that of Christine's). 
So there you have it - a review/retelling of "Love Never Dies" in comparison to the original masterpiece of "Phantom of the Opera". I don't think there's really anything else to add. If you do decide to see the production just keep in mind that the music (rather than the plot or the story line) is what really matters. And the music, as I stated earlier, is still just as beautiful as ever.

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