Love Never Dies Review– Adelphi Theatre
The Phantom – Ramin Karimloo
Christine Daaé – Lucy Van Gasse (understudy)
Raoul – David Thaxton
If I could write a review in just one word, it’d be ‘Wow’ but then I wouldn’t be helping anyone, and I’d be a pretty bad writer! Honestly Love Never Dies is one of the best shows I’ve seen in the West End recently. I almost couldn’t write any notes because I didn’t want to tear my eyes away from the stage.
True to form, Andrew Lloyd Webber creates a fantastically rich and heavily textured musical score, and in collaboration with David Cullen, the orchestration is excellent from the outset. I love a show with a strong, rousing overture and entr’acte, and Love Never Dies doesn’t disappoint. There are some familiar sounds from the first production, Phantom Of The Opera but for the most part, the music is refreshingly contemporary but still in keeping with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s traditional Musical Theatre values. Some of the duets and group numbers have the essence of Boublil and Schönberg to them, particularly in the harmony and arrangement, perhaps giving insight into where some inspiration has been taken.
The first image the audience sees is a projection of the infamous Paris Opera House, well known from the original production of Phantom of the Opera. As the show begins, the projection changes to the Opera House being in flames followed by images of newspaper clippings reporting the burning of the Opera House and presuming the subsequent death of the Phantom. These large projections are seen throughout the show and are integrated well into the telling of the story. They are extremely detailed and really enhance the production. This additional piece of production takes the show comfortably into the realm of contemporary Musical Theatre proving Andrew Lloyd Webber’s staying power.
Of course, The Phantom has not perished in the Opera House fire and we see this as the opening number begins, and the familiar drone of The Phantom’s theme fills the theatre. If there were ever a perfect opening song to announce the return of The Phantom, or indeed any other character, ‘Til I Hear You Sing’ is most definitely it. This opening number is outstanding and gives Ramin Karimloo the opportunity to show the audience his incredible vocal ability. Fast becoming the West End’s most popular leading man, Karimloo has most of the audience sitting jaws dropped throughout. He has the charm and mystery of The Phantom perfected and I could listen to his voice all evening. The intensity with which he plays the part is faultless and Karimloo’s presence on stage is mesmirising.
Love Never Dies is set in Coney Island, the famous New York pleasure ground with vibrant variety shows, enticing magic acts, and it’s share of gambling and debauchery. After The Phantom’s prologue, we see Coney Island come to life with a wonderful musical number featuring some excellent examples of acrobatics, aerial work and other weird and wonderful sights. We then see some exports from the old Paris Opera House; Madame Giry played by Liz Robertson and her daughter, Meg (Haley Flaherty). These two characters are featured more in Love Never Dies than in Phantom of the Opera and both actresses portray the characters well. Flaherty shows Meg’s desperation to be noticed just on the good side of being whiney and irritating, and she is an excellent dancer. Without giving away any plot, Flaherty really comes into her own in Act 2 and shows an impressive strength as an actress. Robertson has all the experience and maturity to play Madame Giry with the perfect amount of authority and strength. The audience does also see her desperation and her frustrations at the arrival of Christine Daaé to Coney Island and we see a darker side to this mother and daughter pair in Act 2.
Playing the part of Christine Daaé was Celia Graham’s understudy Lucy Van Gasse and the first impression of Ms Daaé on her arrival in New York is one of beauty and elegance. Her silence for a while after her first entrance speaks volumes and by the time she utters her first words the audience is on tender hooks, let alone when she begins to sing! Van Gasse impressed me most with her voice. She has a stunning tone to her vocals and reaches the high notes with ease. Without loosing any of her astute poise, Van Gasse sings beautifully and captures the hearts of both The Phantom and the audience. Each duet she performs with The Phantom is better and more heart-wrenching than the last. Her interaction with her son is soft and gentle, and she plays the part with every inch a leading lady should.
In contrast to Christine is the harsh character of Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny. Differing from the loving nature of this same character in Phantom of the Opera, he is now a demanding, unkind figure and becomes very dislikable for the audience. David Thaxton, who plays Raoul, plays his arrogance well, his voice is not as strong as others in the show, but he definitely improves in Act 2 when we see more depth to his character. A lot of his unkind nature is directed at Christine’s son, a young boy with a passion for magic tricks and exploring. A special mention must go to Jack Costello who played Gustave for our performance. This young character has a lot of singing and Costello was excellent, not struggling with it in any way…and he was very cute!
The entire production of Love Never Dies is excellent, from elaborate projections to clever trickery and illusions. The musical score is Andrew Lloyd Webber at his best, in particular with Christine’s final aria. This show has a touch of everything to grasp and keep the audience’s attention. There is a hint of melodrama, power, conflict and of course heartache. I recommend it to anyone (just see Phantom of the Opera first).
Content updated 1st May 2014