The 'Phantom' sequel 'Love Never Dies' in London: What did the critics think?
After years of anticipation by some -- and dread by others -- "Love Never Dies," Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to his mega-smash, "The Phantom of the Opera," opened Tuesday night at the Adelphi Theatre in London.
"Phantom," which premiered in London in 1986, became an international sensation with its soaring music, crashing chandelier and romantic 19th-century plot in which soprano Christine Daae becomes the object of obsession of a mysterious figure who terrorizes the Paris Opera House.
In "Love Never Dies," the Phantom (Ramin Karimloo) lures Christine (Sierra Boggess) and her family to his new home, New York's Coney Island. The production, which is scheduled to go to Broadway this fall, is directed by Jack O'Brien with music by Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glen Slater and a book by Lloyd Webber, Ben Elton and others.
As soon as "Phantom" fans heard Lloyd Webber was working on a sequel some were ecstatic -- believing magic would strike twice -- and others were aghast, saying well enough should be left alone.
Judging from their reviews, the critics were just as split in their opinions.
Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph calls it "Lloyd Webber’s finest show since the original Phantom, with a score blessed with superbly haunting melodies and a yearning romanticism that sent shivers racing down my spine."
However Ben Brantley in the New York Times says "this poor sap of a show feels as eager to be walloped as a clown in a carnival dunking booth. For starters, the title, with its promise of immortality, was just asking for trouble. And its breathless solemnity pervades the show’s every aspect."
The Independent's Paul Taylor says Karimloo "may not be a physically imposing enough presence as the Phantom, but his marvellously supple voice can run the gamut from a seductive guttural whisper to the full blare of frustrated passion." Boggess' Christine, he says, "boasts a voice that can pool and purl quietly and then knock you dead with her towering rendition of the climactic title number...."
The Guardian's Michael Billington says "there is much to enjoy in Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical. The score is one of the composer's most seductive. Bob Crowley's design and Jack O'Brien's direction have a beautiful kaleidoscopic fluidity. And the performances are good. The problems lie within the book, chiefly credited to Lloyd Webber himself and Ben Elton, which lacks the weight to support the imaginative superstructure."
Benedict Nightingale in the Times of London notes that "the blogosphere has been teeming with views of Lloyd Webber’s long-awaited Phantom II. For some, Love Never Dies is “Paint Never Dries”, and for others the composer is at his musical best. I tend to agree with both factions."
-- Karen Wada
Above: Iranian-born actor Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and American actress Sierra Boggess as Christine in "Love Never Dies," the sequel to Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera." Credit: Catherine Ashmore / EPA