Bizarre but Beautiful
Love Never Dies is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s absurd sequel to his classic musical, The Phantom of the Opera. The plot is ridiculous, it takes place on Coney Island and besides the main characters there is almost no connection to the first musical. And it doesn’t matter. I love it.
The show opens ten years after the events of the first play, with the Phantom longing for his old obsession, Christine, who is arriving in New York. Not one to be deterred by her husband or ten-year-old child, the Phantom decides to try to win her again. Using his usual motivators of music and murder, the Phantom lures Christine to him. Luckily for him, her marriage isn’t going so well. The rich, loving and powerful Raoul has become a gambler and an alcoholic in the intervening years and does not like his wife following her passion to perform on stage. Then, the audience finds out that Christine and the Phantom shared a night of passion together ten years ago and she’s really still in love with the masked man.
Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is, and the plot only spirals downward from there.
However, if you’re willing to ignore the story, it’s a beautiful show. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music is deeply moving, paired with the simple but poetic lyrics by Glenn Slater. It’s a score that will have you humming the main tunes again and again with lyrics that actually make you feel for the world’s stupidest love triangle. This alone however is not enough to make it worth seeing, as the show’s lack-luster first run in London proved. The key element that makes the show magical is the scenic and costume design of Gabriela Tylesova.
Tylesova’s decadent and thoughtful designs are what make this show stand out. The sets and costumes are opulent and magical. Everything is a study in opposites. The opulence of the world of opera set against the squalid freak shows of Coney Island. Christine dressed all in white with dark hair and the Phantom all in black with his signature white mask. Even the edges of the stage are shown at different points in the play, one side fashioned like the mask, and the other side a human face made of wire. Every set and costume piece plays with this duplicity inherent within the phantom’s story. It all asks the question, what parts are the monster and what parts are the man?
I can’t lie, I adore this show. It doesn’t matter how many problems there are with the story or that the characters make frankly idiotic decisions. I love the music and the beautiful and bizarre world created by the set and costume design. Is it a great musical? No, it’s not. This show will never achieve the fantastic acclaim of the first one because the story simply does not back up the characters’ actions. That stated, there are enough redeeming elements of the show that I think it’s worth the price of admission.
Love Never Dies is playing March 13-18, 2018 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts at 255 South Almaden Blvd. Tickets range $48 to $128. The show runs about two hours and fifteen minutes with one intermission.
Photos courtesy of Joan Marcus