On Friday night, I was very lucky to be invited to the latest buzz-show to open in the West End, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies, currently playing at the Adelphi Theatre, located on The Strand.
The show is currently in its preview period, and will have it’s opening night / World premiere on March 9th 2010.
For those unfamiliar with this terminology, a preview period is effectively a ‘workshop’ performance – I have had different friends in the audience each night, and I hear that it’s been a completely different show each night thus far. That said, the preview period gives one a chance to really see how they’re pulling a musical together, and so personally I think that it can actually enhance the experience. This review is based on a preview performance, and I know for a fact that they are currently working out some of the clunky elements to it as I type!
I attended last night with my good friend Adam (who used to play Edna in Hairspray – so had ‘an actors’ viewpoint), and two of my friends/colleagues from work, Joe and Huma.
Setting: Coney Island in 1907. (Note: According to the show, the events occur approximately a decade after the events of The Phantom of the Opera. In reality, however, Lloyd Webber’s original show was set in 1881, meaning that the time period between the two stories amounts to 26 years.)
The Phantom has travelled to Coney Island with Madame Giry and her daughter Meg. Beginning his new life in America as a freak show attraction, he has worked his way up to a position of power and is now the successful architect of a number of Coney Island attractions. Despite his newfound wealth and success he still longs for Christine and manages to arrange for her to come and sing at one of his latest attractions. Christine arrives at Coney Island along with Raoul and their son Gustave, unknowingly returning to the man she feared most.
Let’s start with the positives first and say that this show is an absolute visual feast! Lloyd-Webber has clearly thrown a lot of money at this production – I heard several gasps coming from the audience during some of the more technological moments of the show, and some of the imagery created was simply beautiful! Huge flats and sets magically appeared out of nowhere (surely they weren’t all stashed in the wings?!) and the use of video technology really brought the audience into the story.
The score is both lavish and sound, and everybody is more than capable of holding their own on stage, with outstanding performances from Ramin Karimloo as The Phantom himself (what a voice!) and West End legend Liz Robertson as Madame Giry.
It was an enormous treat to be in a theatre that had a full orchestra in the orchestra pit – an increasing rarity these days in the West End, and the sounds coming out of the pit were warm, sumptuous and enveloping. More shows to follow suit please!
My favourite songs in the production were Bathing Beauty, Love Never Dies and, of course, the marvellous ‘Till I Hear You Sing
On the whole, I really did like the show, but (and without wanting to go into details of the story), I did have a few issues with it:
- I felt a distinct lack of empathy with the characters – I didn’t really warm to anybody enough to ‘care’ for their fate as it were.
- I only started to realise about half-way through the Second Act that I was really liking the show, and felt a little cheated out of the enjoyment factor that I’d not felt as much/realised that I’d had in Act One.
- The title of the piece may be Love Never Dies, however I didn’t feel that the romance element didn’t really manifest itself to start with if I am honest, which is a bit of a travesty when considering the show’s links with The Phantom Of The Opera!
- Raoul needs to grow a backbone and show more passion/fight.
- The ending needs reworking in my opinion – I came very close to a tear, but it lacked that final emotional push to get it from me.
Perhaps the most disappointing for me was the realisation that Lloyd-Webber has ripped two of these songs pretty much straight out of one of his earlier musicals, The Beautiful Game! (yes, I am a hardcore musical theatre fan – this is a fairly obscure reference, I grant you!!).
The titular song Love Never Dies (clip above) is sourced from Our Kind Of Love:
The 80s Starlight-Express-esque The Beauty Underneath contains a lot of sounds from the latter bits of Dead Zone I think:
I really liked the soundtrack, don’t get me wrong, however I was sitting there feeling rather cheated that I was just listening to a rehash of a couple of songs from a musical that hadn’t really enjoyed the commercial success (outside of Hungary – random, I know!) that they’d hoped for. I feel that you can get away with this on a ‘normal’ song, but it’s a little bit cheeky to do this on the musical’s signature song!
The show lasts 2 hours 50 minutes (inc. Interval) – so you can expect to get out around 22:20.
Whilst not at all related to the show itself, please be warned that the toilet situation at the Adelphi Theatre is absolutely abysmal. The toilet facilities are tiny, and the queues for them were huge (including the gents – which never happens usually!). It ultimately got to the point where the ushers were starting to try and coax people out of queues as the performance was about to recommence. My friend Joe and I nearly ended up missing the start of Act Two due to queuing for the bathroom, and I reckon that around 20-25% of the stalls audience were not in their seats once the lights came down and the Entr’acte started. (As an aside for the theatre, I think that the lights should be dimmed but not switched off for this musical introduction to allow people to get back to their seats!)
In summation, I think that this is a show that newbies and some existing Phans will come to love, with the Phans perhaps enjoying it that little bit more than those there on their first time (though the show does still stand-alone successfully). I think that once the kinks are worked out of the production, this will garner positive reviews and become a firm favourite on theatre stages around the World.
For me (and as I know will be the case for some of the other Phans), it wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be (was it ever really going to live up to Phantom?), but realistically it was far better than I’d expected when I’d first heard of plans for it, and so for that reason it gets a thumbs up from me.
After the show, I was very lucky to be invited backstage and got to meet musical legend Liz Robertson (Madame Giry) and Summer Strallen (Meg Giry) – both of whom were lovely and are my two favourite characters in the show – this absolutely made my night!
Have you been to see the show already? Do please leave your comments and thoughts on it below! 🙂