Love Never Dies

Love Never Dies

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Universal Pictures

Release date: March 12th, 2012
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 121 minutes

Director: Simon Phillips
Writer: Andrew Lloyd Webber

Cast: Anna O’Byrne, Ben Lewis, Simon Gleeson, Jack Lyall, The Ensemble

Official Site

Andrew Lloyd Webber began working on a musical entitled Love Never Dies in 1990, a long awaited sequel to the 1986 hit musical The Phantom of the Opera, set in New York City at the turn of the 20th Century. However, having hit several periods of difficulty working with numerous writers and authors including Frederick Forsyth, Webber began to worry that the characters and plots that were being developed would be difficult to transcript onto the stage.

It was not until 2007 after approaching Ben Elton, who had worked previously with Webber on The Beautiful Game (2000), that things began to move forward at a faster pace. Having stripped back the additional characters created by Webber and Forsyth, Elton concentrated more on the original characters from The Phantom. Webber hadn’t even considered writing any music for the production, and once he began, more delays followed after his pet cat managed to completely wipe the entire score from his Clavinova digital piano. Webber was unable to recover any of the score, and had to painstakingly reconstruct it from the beginning.

Love Never Dies

The show eventually opened on 9th March 2010 in the West End, and in Melbourne on 21st May 2011. It was then that Webber announced that the Melbourne performance, which had been re-worked with new direction, choreography and design, would be filmed for DVD, to be released on 12th March 2012 in the UK as well as in various other countries. The recorded performance will also be played in select cinemas during March 2012.

Set ten years after the original at the Paris Opera, the story focuses on the Phantom (Ben Lewis from Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Monty Python’s Spamalot Austrailian productions) having moved to New York and creating Phantasma (Coney Island). The phantom longs to hear Christine (Anna O’Byrne, The Phantom of the Opera Australian production) sing again and is tourtured by her absence in his life. He therefore decides that he must send her an invite to make her debut in America. Christine accepts the offer, unaware of whom the invitation sender may be, and makes the trip to New York with her husband Raoul (Simon Gleeson) and ten year old son Gustave (Jack Lyall).

What follows from here is a rollercoaster of a ride, in typical Lloyd Webber style. Revolving around the extension of the original love story, we are sidetracked by sub plots, taking us in a new direction and throwing us back again in an exciting and emotional journey. Exaggerated performances and epic musical numbers support a fantastic cast, with a particular mention to Jack Lyall, whose vocal performances are in my opinion outstanding for an actor of his age (being only ten years old).

Love Never Dies

It was always going to be an immense task to create a follow-up production to something as hugely successful worldwide as The Phantom of the Opera, and although Love Never Dies doesn’t quite make the mark, it is seriously pushing to be up there.

It is a visually stunning performance, with technically demanding stage operations and fantastic costume design. From the opening of the first musical number, The Coney Island Waltz, we are transported into a different world, from which it is a non-stop ride until the curtain closes. One of the most memorable pieces is the title theme, Love Never Dies, which will stay with you long after watching. We are reminded of it’s predecessor on several occasions throughout the musical score, with short reprises of several melodies from The Phantom incorporated into the score, often with slight melodic changes, but still easily recognized.

The quality of the DVD itself is spectacular. The lighting is captured with absolute clarity, and unlike various other musicals that have been released on DVD that have not been able to capture the enormity of the theatrical productions, Love Never Dies manages to do this through the effective use of camera angles and emphasis on characters. The most impressive aspect for me was the clarity and quality of the sound recording – you could quite easily close your eyes and believe you are there in the audience in Melbourne watching the show live.

Love Never Dies

Having been completely reworked from the UK version on the West End, the Melbourne version DVD release will be a fantastic opportunity for lovers of Webber to experience the version that they might not have yet seen, and hopefully in time this may encourage another, longer return run on the West End.

The only disappointing aspect for me was the fact that I did not go and see this production live, however the DVD release is the next best thing. For fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the reactions may be split. Maybe The Phantom should not have been accompanied by a sequel, or maybe this sequel has made the Phantom even greater than it ever was. To me, I see each as a stand alone piece – although the characters and love story are the same, the mood and feel of each scene and musical number are completely different, partly achieved by the fantastic, all round performance of the Australian cast.

If you are not a fan of musicals, you will most probably hate it – but if there is a little part of you in there that softens to memorable music, appreciates an intimate love story and anticipates the shock of tragedy and revelation, then maybe you should give it a go. Who knows, you may suprise yourself.

About Phil Blanckley

Phil Blanckley

Phil is a 27-year-old classically trained musician from Sheffield with qualifications in Popular Music, Classical Music and a BA (Hons) in Creative Music Technology and Sound Recording. He likes nothing better than locking himself in the studio and composing music of all genres.

Phil became interested in composing after learning how to play the Cello and Clarinet at a young age, and has never looked back since. His favourite composer is Danny Elfman, whose unconventional harmonies and rhythms in scores such as Edward Scissorhands still manage to bring a tear or two to his eye.

You can find him on Twitter @PhilBlanckley.