The ninth part of my track-by-track commentary of Love Never Dies deals with a sequence of reprises of tunes we’ve heard earlier in the show, those heard on tracks 4-5 of the second disc of the original cast recording, “Bathing Beauty” (track 6), a number which we’ve seen rehearsed in Act I of the show and the backstage reactions of Meg and Madame Giry to the number (track 7).
4. “Heaven By the Sea (Reprise)”
I had more patience with this song the first time it appeared. The small amount of charm it managed to muster has disappeared and now it sounds more like the Animaniacs theme song than a song befitting the period and situation. In truth, it is a double reprise and segues into a reprise of “Only For You”. It’s a throwaway piece that merely serves to put into context the final day of the season. The number gets more interesting as it goes along, as the tourists settle into a more relaxed mode. But ultimately, I just don’t think it’s good enough and I think it’s in the wrong place. As I said in my previous entry in this series, I think some version of this number (or – perhaps this would be even better – a completely new and spectacular one about “The Last Day of the Season”) should appear at the top of the second act. The way it relaxes toward the end would be a perfect entry point into Raoul’s bar scene and the contrast between the moods of the juxtaposed scenes would be immensely effective.
5. “Ladies… Gents!/The Coney Island Waltz (Reprise)”
At this point, Fleck, Gangle and Squelch arrive by hot hair balloon to announce the performances for the evening, accompanied by the musical theme that usually marks their appearance. They make their announcement to melodic strains from “The Coney Island Waltz” which then transports us to a scene onstage at Phantasma and a spoken announcement by the three freaks that mostly repeats what what we’ve just heard them sing. These characters are really represent such a conundrum. Obviously they are set up to contextualise the Phantom’s presence at Coney Island, but they are so underutilised. Perhaps I shouldn’t be expecting so much, however: if Ben Elton, Glenn Slater and Andrew Lloyd Webber aren’t sure of what to do with major characters like Raoul and Meg, what hope do we have of seeing minor characters like these find their place in the show?
6. “Bathing Beauty”
“Bathing Beauty” is Meg’s big number: it’s quick-change cross strip-tease routine in which she decide what swimming costume to wear on her visit to Coney Island. Why Meg has suddenly turned into Gypsy Rose Lee is anybody’s guess, but I hope the staging approaches the brilliance of a Michael Bennett number because the song isn’t much of a masterpiece. Fleck’s assessment of the number as ‘earthbound’ might be the understatement of the season.
7. “Mother Did You Watch?”
An ebullient Meg rushes backstage to her mother, singing of her triumph in a reprise of “Only For Him”. Madame Giry is not so cheerful because the Phantom did not watch her performance and informs Meg that they have been replaced by Christine and Gustave in the life of their master. Meg is shocked and distraught, so much so that she seems to have been completely un. This little scene seems pointless: we’ve heard the music before and we’ve heard the sentiments of both characters too. The show needs to move forward at this point and, for the last 10 minutes or so, it has floundered.
Final verdict: The sequence of scenes in this section of the show is among the weakest in the show. The already shaky second act really starts to unravel here. The creators, because of choices they have made in telling the story thus far, seem unsure in which direction to move so they seem content with recapping a few plot points. With the possible exception of “Bathing Beauty”, you could remove this whole section of the show without losing anything narrative or thematic. Even worse, the sequence doesn’t work structurally or rhythmically; it’s like an engine that it struggling to take, but that just can’t make it. Simply and frankly put, it’s not nearly up to scratch dramatically or musically and needs some serious attention.
NEXT UP: Moment of Crisis…
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.