The eleventh and final part of this track-by-track commentary of Love Never Dies works through Christine’s climactic performance of the title song and its immediate aftermath: tracks 10-11 of the second disc of the original cast recording.
10. “Love Never Dies”
It is time for Christine’s climactic performance. “Love Never Dies” begins with a fairly lengthy instrumental introduction which may be very beautiful, but what is it’s function? Is it meant to, like the meditation in Jules Massenet’s Thaïs, the moment in which our heroine commits to the path she must follow? If so, how will that be represented on stage? I do hope it isn’t there simply for it’s own sake or to cover Christine’s entrance.
Let’s face it: this song has to be beautiful, transcendent. It has to awaken whatever has been sleeping in Christine since she last sang the Phantom’s music, the soul make gives her instrument meaning.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has done his job with the music – although he’s been fortunate enough to have this song in the bag for more than a decade. Glenn Slater’s lyrics are another matter: they sound something like English translations for the surtitles of an French opera. They aren’t graceful enough; they’re too literal; and they don’t sing. The lyrics weren’t much better when the song was known as “The Heart is Slow to Learn” in 1998, although it seems that back then that the lyrics place the song in the spot now taken by “‘Til I Hear You Sing”. The song has still never been better than when it was “Our Kind of Love” in The Beautiful Game in spite of the composer’s protesting that it didn’t fit into that show. Whether or not it would have been better to let it remain there and to write a completely new song for this spot, it is here in Love Never Dies now and it needs better lyrics. Lyrics that sing. Lyrics that move us and, more importantly, Christine.
11. “Ah Christine”
In the dressing room after the performance, the Phantom congratulates Christine on her marvellous performance. Christine is overwhelmed by the effect singing the song has had on her. Much of this is done to yet another inappropriate non-diegetic reprise of the “Beautiful” theme.
Christine then discovers a letter from Raoul stating that he has left for good, which is set to the “Little Lotte” theme from The Phantom of the Opera in which their earliest days together as children were recalled.
Now as I see it, this scene provides a way in to two alternative endings other than the one we get and which will be discussed in the final entry in this series. Both would require some rewriting throughout the rest of the show, but I think that is going be be a feature of any attempt to get this show up to scratch no matter what narrative strategies the the creative team chooses to follow.
In the first, the Phantom arrives in Christine’s dressing room to sing of his triumph, only to discover that Raoul has taken Christine and Gustave and fled – a last desperate attempt to keep his family together. Christine, at this point, wants to stay, having had her transcendental experience as she sang her song. The Phantom pursues them and, in the streets of Coney Island, Raoul and the Phantom finally face off in a duel. Raoul is killed and Christine, seeing the Phantom for what he is, unmasks him in front of everyone as she did in The Phantom of the Opera, takes Gustave and leaves as the crowd closes in on him and burns Phantasma to the ground. In the emptiness that is left behind, we are given an epilogue in which we see Gustave as a young man achieve some kind of musical acclaim, realising all the good in his father without the burden of his deformity. As his mother looks on proudly, beautifully and filled with regret, the curtain falls.
In the second, we see the two sections switched around. Christine discovers Raoul’s note first and it becomes clear to her how both men have manipulated her during the course of The Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies: in the former, she was a pawn; in the latter, she is the prize. The Phantom enters singing about his triumph and Christine sings about her transcendence, but realises that she needs to discover her own voice. Being the Phantom’s mouthpiece is not enough for her anymore. Raoul is out of her life, she tells the Phantom, but she cannot stay with him either. It’s very intellectual and very Ibsen – see A Doll’s House. She takes Gustave and they leave as the Phantom laments how he will never hear Christine sing again. Cue a similar coda to satisfy the emotional expectations of the target audience and we’re home free.
I think either might be a good alternative, but instead we’re treated to a second, melodramatic climax involving Meg and the big secret she and Madame Giry have been hiding throughout the show…
Final verdict: To Glenn Slater: please write better lyrics for this show and especially for this song. To Andrew Lloyd Webber: please demand excellence from your collaborators. To both of you: please go through the entire show carefully and decide which story you want to tell; consider whether the climax of your story is Christine’s choice or the melodramatic nonsense with which you’ve chosen to end the show; and don’t let Ben Elton distract you with any more of his bizarre story ideas. Or if you are going to go with the melodramatic nonsense, please set it up better so that it is only melodramatic and not nonsense. That should sort out this section of the show and several others too.
NEXT UP: Second climax – or dénouement?
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.