I’ve known about the Phantom of the Opera sequel for years now; back when it was an abandoned idea of ALW’s that he had someone make into a novel (The Phantom of Manhattan) presumably because investors knew a bad idea when they saw one.
Well, Lloyd Webber managed to get some stupider investors, or ponied up the money himself and last year the world found Phantom of Manhattan reborn as an upcoming stage musical Phantom: Love Never Dies.
When I heard about it, I immediately assumed that the worst part about it would be the plot. For those of you unfamiliar, Phantom of Manhattan went like this: The Phantom escaped after the events of the musical, and went to live in America, where he pretty much founded Coney Island. Yes, really. He builds an opera house, and under a fake name invites Christine (now a famous singer, married to Raul, with a child) to come and sing at the grand opening. Raul, as it turns out, has walked straight out of some E/C fanfiction and is now a drunk gambler one step away from abusive. They go to Coney Island. There’s a lot of pointless bickering. Erik reveals himself. Christine reveals that her son is Erik’s not Raul’s, and that she always loved him. Erik’s psychotic Hindu business partner fatally shoots Christine.
I’m not making the above up.
And, it turns out the only thing they’re changing for Love Never Dies is that there’s no crazy Hindu business partner. Instead, Meg Giry, Christine’s friend from the original, goes crazy and does the shooting. Because….I don’t exactly know why. Cuz she crazy.
So, suffice it to say that I was already set up to hate the plot. But hey, it’s a musical! I love Musicals! I love Andrew Lloyd Webber! And its not like there aren’t musicals I hate the plot of. I mean, I adore Jesus Christ Superstar. So when the soundtrack for Love Never Dies came out a few days ago, I was like YEAH, boss! Sweet, music! I’ll just listen to it for what it is; bad fanfiction!
Unfortunately, the music leaves almost as much to be desired as the plot does. Maybe it’s partly the plot’s fault, after all, the music in a musical must drive the plot, but somehow, it falls on its face.
In general, the tone of the music doesn’t flow well or naturally from the original. Though I tried to judge it on its own merits, I kept thinking ‘this doesn’t sound like Phantom’, ‘this doesn’t sound like how these characters would be singing’. PoTO was… operatic, it was strongly melodic, forcefully, building. LND isn’t set at the Paris Opera, its set on Coney Island in the early 1900s, so it sounds kinda…vaudville, and while I’m sure that was intentional, and it does set the scene, it just feels like a let down; it lacks in scope and power when compared to the original.
Additionally, the women who play Meg Giry and Madame Giry have these awful screeching harpy voices. I hope to gods they are not actually French, because they have the stupidest sounding accents I’ve heard this side of the old Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon.
Speaking of which, many of the songs sound extremely cartoony, and I’m talking second-rate Disney knockoff, not Beauty and the Beast. It’s at its worst whenever the choir girls are singing, specifically in “Only for Him/Only for You” but it comes through a bit even in the songs that you can tell were supposed to be the ‘big numbers’.
Contrariwise some of the songs are just bland. ‘Til I Hear you Sing’, which is obviously intended to be LND’s ‘Music of the Night’, is a tender, pining love song; the Phantom is thinking of Christine and wishing she would come back to him. It’s actually quite lovely, a bit catchy, and the man who sings does a decent job of emoting. The problem is the song is symptomatic of everything that’s wrong in LND. ‘Til I Hear you Sing’ is so bland and non-specific, it could be from ANY leading male to his leading lady. In fact, without changing the words at all, it could easily be sung by another “Eric”. Prince Eric from Disney’s Little Mermaid. (Good idea for a fanvid, actually). The tune is pretty, and the longing and love for Christine is evident; but there’s none of the half-psychotic passion that the Phantom evidenced in MoTN. There’s nothing creepy, or wrong about it. It’s a boy losses girl song, and I can listen to one of those anywhere. It doesn’t fit the Phantom at all.
A song that really does bring on the creepy passion is ‘Beauty Underneath’, and it has problems of its own. This song maps thematically best to ‘Past the Point of No Return’ from the original. It’s a kind of rock/punk duet (a genre that contrasts WILDLY with the rest of the music) and it’s about accepting the weird and dangerous as beautiful. Its pretty intense, and the lyrics are very interesting, and there is great, creepy chemistry between the two singers. And herein lies the main problem of the song, aside from it being musically outside of the rest of the songs; the singers are the Phantom, and his young, unknowing illegitimate son. Clearly the intent is to show how much the boy is like his father, but it really, REALLY sounds like a seduction to the dark side song. And at the end, the Phantom exposes himself to the boy, who screams. I mean, he takes off his mask, obviously.
The song I actually really like is ‘Devil Take the Hindmost’ (as those of you who see my Twitter might have guessed). It’s a duet/argument between the Phantom and Raul, where Phantom basically double dog dares Raul to use Christine as stakes in a bet. It’s hilarious. Its also one of the few songs where the Phantom actually sounds angry, which I absolutely adore. The song is very back and forth, and it’s a FANTASTIC bout of male bickering, that sort of reminds me of Jesus and Judas bitching at one another in Gethsemane in JSC. (“Why don’t you go do it?” “You want me to do it” “Hurry, they’re waiting…”) Here the line that really gets me giggling is Raul’s repeated, petulant reply of “FINE!” to the Phantom’s stakes. I really recommend this song for hawt male bitchitude, and treating women like property to be won or lost. *drool*
What I’m really trying to say here, is there are things that I liked, musically, about Love Never Dies, they’re just few and far between, and almost completely divorced from the things I liked musically about Phantom of the Opera.