by Marialena Rago
photo by Joan Marcus
If you thought you knew the ending to the world-wide phenomenon The Phantom of the Opera, you are in for an awakening at the Academy of Music. Love Never Dies is the sequel to the massive hit, telling audiences the story of what happens 10 years after the Phantom vanished from his Opera lair. Christine is a prima donna in Europe who is about to make her American debut at the request of Oscar Hammerstein I… that is until an anonymous impresario contracts her to perform at Phantasma, a new attraction on Coney Island. Along with her husband Raoul and son Gustave, Christine goes to Brooklyn, unaware that “The Phantom” is the mysterious benefactor.
Love Never Dies has the usual Andrew Lloyd Webber flair. The music is distinctively his, with soaring ballads like the opening “Til I Hear You Sing” and operatic nods with the title song “Love Never Dies”. It is a lavish and melodramatic production, in the way that only the Phantom can be melodramatic. But for many Phantom fans, the characterization of the beloved characters is a hard pill to swallow. Meg, the prima ballerina from the original production, is reduced to a show girl and Raoul, the love that saved Christine, is now a degenerate drunk.
Love Never Dies, which is new to American audiences, debuted on London’s West End. Due to lackluster reviews, the show has been rearranged and some of the music like “Beauty Underneath” has been changed, but the plot is mostly the same.
The actors in this touring cast are wonderful and it’s very apparent that they understand these characters. Bronson Norris Murphy’s Phantom is more heroic and sympathetic then most Phantoms. He performs the character with grander and distinction, and his voice soars in the Phantom’s romantic balled. Meghan Picerno’s voice is a dream to listen to and gives chills down the spine. She is a true operatic soprano, a trait that all future Christine’s should have on their resume. Though Raoul is not the “handsome boy in the opera box” anymore, Philadelphia native and Temple grad Sean Thompson (check out our interview with him here) makes a great Raoul, especially during the number “Devil Take the Hindmost.”
The truth is, the Phantom of the Opera doesn’t need a sequel. A show of that magnitude and fame shouldn’t be reduced to a money maker the way blockbuster movies have been in recent years. With that being said, though, Love Never Dies is still a must see. The set is breathtaking and Phantom fans will enjoy seeing these beloved characters again. The Academy of Music is the perfect place for this show, as you really feel like you’re at the opera there.
Love Never Dies is in Philadelphia until October 7th. Tickets can be purchased here.