I thought it might be interesting to share some thoughts about Love Never Dies (with book and lyrics by Glenn Slater and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on elements of The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth and an original treatment by Ben Elton) the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera and, like Camelot was for Lerner and Loewe following the success of My Fair Lady, the very opposite of a “sleeper”. So here goes….
This first section deals with the opening scenes of the show, Tracks 1-3 on the first disc of the original cast album of Love Never Dies.
We start off, as the earlier show did, with a “Prologue”. Instead of the pounding of a gavel, we get the sound of the wind and the sea, along with a snatch of melody that will probably become one of the main musical themes of the show later on. This is followed by a section of dialogue, at first an soliloquy by Madame Giry before she is interrupted by the a sideshow freak named Fleck, by recalling the heyday of Phantasma, similar to the dialogue in which the grandest nights of the Paris Opera were referenced in the opening of The Phantom of the Opera. Only a minute in, and we’re already dealing with formula. Love Never Dies seems to be trying to emulate the success of its predecessor by copying its structure – a seemingly obvious and logical choice – but here the material sounds too much like a pitch at a story meeting, the natural result of a choice that ignores the relationship between form and content in narrative musical theatre, the relationship that should be developed specifically for each and every narrative musical. We hear about a tragedy – not a chandelier this time, but a fire that consumed everything – and ease into a sung section from the “Coney Island Waltz”, which builds through successive themes into… an anticlimax. Instead of making seamlessly segue into the “Coney Island Waltz”, we return to a moment that is simply another beginning instead of the climax of a scene.
2. “The Coney Island Waltz”
Taking its lead more from the opening of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel than from The Phantom of the Opera, “The Coney Island Waltz” creates an world with music as it moves through successive themes that one presumes will be fleshed out with meaning by the time the whole score is experienced. It’s a lovely piece of music, but it seems to duplicate some of what the “Prologue” was meant to achieve. In contrast to the previous scene, here the music sounds more like spontaneous drama – emotion happening in the moment and underscoring the pageantry of bringing to life a world, like the Paris Opera, that no longer exists as it did prior to the disasters hinted at in the preceding dialogue. Ending with a phrase similar in its effect to the “Overture” from “The Coney Island Waltz”, one would expect for us to find ourselves planted squarely in that world, as we did in the first show. Instead we get…
3. “That’s the place that you ruined, you fool!”
… yet another “Prologue” moment – this time in recitative – as Fleck continues to heckle Madame Giry. This is simply a poor choice. This half a minute or so of set-up should most certainly appear before “The Coney Island Waltz”. The dramatic effect is redundant. We’ve now effectively had 3 prologues setting up the action of the show, instead of 1 really effective piece of dramatic writing.
Final verdict: Love Never Dies shows promise in its opening, but this is compromised by formulaic writing and structural choices that affect the rhythm of the drama adversely. “That’s the place that you ruined, you fool!” needs to be incorporated into the “Prologue”, which needs to climax with “The Coney Island Waltz” by which time we should be plunged into the world of Phantasma.
NEXT UP: Is Coney Island truly a “Heaven by the Sea”?
Purchases from Amazon.com
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:
1. Love Never Dies Concept Album Cast Recording.
2. Love Never Dies Concept Album Cast Recording – Deluxe Edition.