I received two tickets to Love Never Dies due to my relationship with The Tampa Bay Bloggers and theirs with the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. However, all opinions are my own.
In Love Never Dies, it had been 10 long years since the Phantom has seen his beloved Christine. For us, it is 20 long years.
The Phantom has lived in my mind replaying the brooding, mysterious obsessive love and those incredible songs. I have only seen the movie and downloaded the music but the music is so incredible I feel as though it has been a part of me.
I had never had the chance to see the musical. So I was. So. Happy to see “part deux” to the Phantom: Love Never Dies.
I didn’t want to read very much about this reprise before I saw it, but I did know the Phantom had been driven out of Paris, and had made his way to New York and found comfort and creativity in the freak show of the Coney Island circus life.
In the opening scene, we at long last see the Phantom, as played by Gardar Thor Cortes, still the tortured soul that we knew in Paris singing the haunting, “Til I Hear You Sing.”
The first few scores are somewhat similar, very dark and brooding with songs and slightly askew darkness of “The Coney Island Waltz.”
When we do see color, we see the lights and roller coasters of Coney Island, a bustling new setting in this new and vulgar world, one where the Phantom can fit in just as well as the underbelly of the Paris Opera House.
His new colorful, freakish friends Fleck, Gangle and Squelch sing as Raoul, Gustave and Ensemble join in. I do have to admit it’s easy to fall in love with the antics of Fleck, played by Katrina Kemp.
We are introduced to his cohorts, who have gladly accepted him as their boss, as well as Meg Giry (Mary Michael Patterson) and her mother Miss Giry ( Karen Mason) who have spent the past 10 years supporting him, his new venture and his ego. Not an easy task, to be sure.
Miss Giry has a voice that is truly remarkable. However, the chorus line/burlesque feeling of “Bathing Beauty” was somewhat lost on me. Maybe I missed the point. I feel my parent’s generation – and especially my parents, who grew up in New York – would have really enjoyed this.
We find that it is the Phantom who has lured Christine and her family to New York, unbeknownst to them, to sing for him.
The story between Gustave and his mother is touching, and there are tender moments of song marked by “Look with Your Heart” between Christine and Gustave. This adds a human element of moving on and growing up in a way that we did not see Christine in the first musical.
As Christine, played by Meghan Picerno, Raoul ( Sean Thompson) and their son Gustave ( Casey Lyons), visit New York, a musical toy awaits them in their room. Gustave is intrigued by it, and plays it, as Christine hears the haunting song she remembers from her past.
It’s here that I realize I want to hear The Phantom of the Opera music.
All I Ask Of You.
Phantom of the Opera.
Wishing you were somehow near to me.
Start. The. Music.
Sing. The. Words.
Play. The. Music! ‘
Just as the Phantom, I am dying to hear Christine sing, too!
The second half moved the story along much faster and there was much more action. This is where deep secrets are further revealed. It’s also the part that I cannot reveal because I don’t want to spoil it. But it is where the musical is at it’s best.
The drama grows between the Phantom and ne’er-do-well Raoul, who hasn’t lived up to his wife’s love and romance, or her appreciation of creativity and song.
They almost duke it out in the great song between the two men “Devil Take the Hindmost.”
Christine finds herself torn between her marriage and the fantasy of the Phantom’s Phantasm and incredible power of music.
In Act II, the scores seem more varied and the emotion unfolds in a more sympathetic manner.
Meg Giry has warns Rauoul not to let her sing for him, as there is something “going on” and she will be lost to him if she does sing.
In the most dramatic scene, Christine has us all wondering which man she will chose and whether or not she will sing his song.
It is here that it finally all comes together as she sings, “Love Never Dies,” wearing a simply magnificent blue dress, gorgeous black chandelier necklace sparkling in the theater lights, set against an incredible backdrop image of peacock plume that encompasses the entire set.
It is magnificent, as is Meghan Picerno’s voice, the score and the gravity of the whole scenario.
THIS is what I came to see!
If I was dissappointed before in some of my expectations for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s songs, I was now content.
That is until the next scenes came. And I dare not ruin it for you.
I will say though that I was in tears at the end. I found myself holding my face, sobbing, hoping that the cast members would not hear me.
The end came, as I still sobbed, and the cast made their curtain calls, all receiving immediate standing ovations.
As with all Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, the music remains in your mind and your heart. I wish I had purchased the CD immediately because I have been singing the title song ever since.
The musical is a must see for any Phantom fan, and even those who did not see the first production, like me.
Love Never Dies plays at The Straz Center through Dec. 17.