The fifth part of my track-by-track Love Never Dies commentary gets us back on track with the the idea of a displaced formula, which was displaced in the previous sequence of scenes by further exposition. In tracks 13-15 on the original cast recording, we see Christine and the Phantom reunited and the introduction of Christine’s son, Gustave, to the Phantom.
13. “Beneath a Moonless Sky”
The sequence begins with some dramatic entrance music, in which the Phantom arrives and Christine realises it was he who arranged for her to come and sing at Phantasma. The music is the main phrase song that will follow and is also the same melody we heard played quietly in the “Prologue”. It is appropriate then, that this phrase was the first we heard, as it is in this song where we learn of the events that are the reason for the events of this new tale being told in Love Never Dies, that Christine and the Phantom were lovers for one night following the events of The Phantom of the Opera. She sought him out after his disappearance on the eve of her wedding to Raoul and, the next morning, awoke to find him gone.
So we’ve skipped over the “The Phantom of the Opera” moment and it’s time for the “Music of the Night” moment. Nighttime remains a motif in “Beneath a Moonless Sky”, as does the relationship between passion and music (evident in lyrics like ‘the music of your pulse’ and ‘the singing of your veins’). The song has a a great deal to achieve because it has to make the audience believe not only that this event actually happened but also that the experience forever altered the nature of the relationship between Christine and the Phantom, that she came to love him in spite of all that had happened in The Phantom of the Opera. Part of the work has been done for the creative team: firstly, as mentioned in an earlier post, the reconciliation of the first generation’s conflict in the second generation is a staple of Gothic Romanticism and, secondly, the idea is not completely unprecedented in Phantom-inspired fiction, as we see basically the same turn of events in Susan Kay’s brilliant novel, Phantom. The rest of the work is done by the music. Despite some earthbound lyrics, the transcendent melody and lush arrangement of the song will probably see it emerge as a favourite of audiences of the show – somewhat like it’s predecessor, I suppose, although this is a far more listenable song than “Music of the Night” ever was and an immediately more credible piece of drama. In terms of getting us to buy into the fact that this happened one night ten years earlier, I certainly find the episode convincing and compelling.
14. “Once Upon Another Time”
The sequence moves on to another song in which the attention shifts from the pair’s feelings about each other in the past to their feelings about each other in the present. There is a sense that they are both still haunted by the experience, that there is regret, but that circumstances have developed to such an extent that things can’t be altered now. There is no other big romantic duet in the show, so is this meant to be our “All I Ask of You”? I think so: remember that we have inverted the order of the original and we now have the Phantom taking Raoul’s spot as the lover-hero and Meg replacing the Phantom as seducer-villain. (Some might say it is Madame Giry who is the new villain; no, she fulfills the same role she did in the first, the go-between who has no real agency for action in the bigger picture. Others might say that it’s Raoul, but he really isn’t developed enough and only plays a circumstantial role in this narrative and there is little conflict when it comes to his actions. So now I hope it is clear why I wrote, back in the second part of this commentary, that Meg needed to be established in a more complex way.) Thus, we have another displacement. The two major displacements we have seen so far are related and the number that links with “The Phantom of the Opera” will appear in the spot previously reserved for the “All I Ask of You” song.
Back to the song itself, we’ve heard a snatch of it before when Christine disembarked the ship upon her arrival in America. The song itself is a piece of classic operetta, recalling “You Are Love” from Show Boat. Incidentally the final line of each chorus is a melody we’ve heard Lloyd Webber use in the song “Unsettled Scores” in Whistle Down the Wind. It’s a pleasant enough song, but once again the soaring music really gets pulled down by the generally platitudinous tone of the lyrics in the verses.
15. “Mother, Please I’m Scared”
After “Music of the Night” in The Phantom of the Opera, we were provided with some creepy morning after music and events. When the scene is interrupted by Gustave’s entrance, having awakened from a bad dream, we get something of the kind, but not nearly as effective. I think this is all right though; this section is not meant to be a huge number and it’s hardly the fault of Love Never Dies that it’s main numbers are more interesting than its incidental ones, as it should be, whereas in The Phantom of the Opera, “I Remember”, “Stranger than You Dreamt It” and even “Magical Lasso” were all infinitely more engaging than “Music of the Night” was.
What works about the sequence is that Gustave’s dream foreshadows the events of the second act, although I wonder if it perhaps not too subtle. It certainly doesn’t need to be overstated, but I wonder if it’s prominent enough for audiences to make the connection when Gustave’s premonition becomes a reality.
Following that, we’re treating to the Phantom bassline once again as the melody of “The Beauty Underneath” plays over it. The event? The meeting of father and son. Or are we not supposed to have come to that realisation yet? If not, the clue that surely must bring us tehre is Gustave’s obsession with things ‘strange and wild and dark in the shadows of the park’. A strange obsession for a child to embrace so soon after a nightmare featuring someone ‘strange and mad’; perhaps the two ideas need not to share the same linguistic markers. Even stranger that there is no objection from Christine, given the nightmare that has just occurred, when the Phantom agrees to show him all these things the following day. The sequence ends with Gustave being sent back to bed as the melody of “Look With Your Heart” begins a segue into the next scene.
Final verdict: This segment holds a great deal of promise. How could it not with two ravishing melodies used to reunite these two characters once again? The lyrics need more work and the kinks in the book need to be worked out, but otherwise this is a fairly satisfying sequence that achieves its objective. What I’m not convinced of is the idea of Meg being the new villain. Perhaps its a strange plot point to mention in this section of the commentary, but it is in this part of the narrative that the inverted structure of the original piece, using the conventions that are familiar to us from the tradition of melodrama, becomes just that much clearer. We’re obviously being primed form a big reveal, more a “whose-gonna-do-it” than a “whodunit”, but I think it’ll end up seeming a bit contrived when we get there if we don’t get enough clues along the way.
NEXT UP: Everyone reunited…
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.