Officially reopened after chops and changes anonymously implemented by Bill Kenwright, Love Never Dies is very much a sequel to the original Phantom of the Opera, audiences expected to understand the love triangle of the original with little prompting - now seen ten years on.
As the Phantom, Ramin Karimloo’s launch number, “’Til I Hear You Sing”, haunts the first act, mainly as it comes from nowhere and disappears just as quickly, the remainder of Act One stuttering forwards without another notable tune for a lengthy spell. The musical plods forwards expectantly waiting for the touch paper to be lit; unfortunately, it never is - characters enter and exit, for apparently little reason, too often to deliver lines from a lightweight book.
The entire production is a visual feast, with New York’s Coney Island created beautifully with a mixture of huge sets, mystifying angled backdrops and stunning projection. However, the animated storytelling stretched between the proscenium never quite makes up for the lack of narrative or emotion delivered on stage.
Despite the tinkering, things still don’t quite mesh, but it is worth noting that the second act is far stronger than the first. It also provides a vehicle for impressive performances - the slowly revolving Sierra Boggess delivering the tremendous operatic aria and title tune, demonstrating that the ingredients of a formidable piece of musical theatre are in there somewhere.
Karimloo also impresses, delivering across the score’s forays into rockier territory and the more standard Phantom numbers and Summer Strallen delivers Meg’s vaudeville numbers with aplomb.
The real issue with Love Never Dies is that it lacks the emotional depth and driving narrative of its predecessor. A strong cast and a handful of memorable tunes don’t make up for a piece that still feels flawed.
Originally published by Whatsonstage.com on 28 November 2010.