We decided to go and see two musicals this week with The Phantom of The Opera on Monday and Love Never Dies on Thursday. Doubtless there has been a lot written about both of these, so I won’t bore you with a detailed storyline, and that would spoil it anyway IF you haven’t seen them, so for what it’s worth here is my version!
Why these two musicals? Well to be honest, I had written several interview articles about several cast members in both shows and I always like to see them on stage either before or after an interview. Also, to see both shows in one week would give us a feel as to whether the Love Never Dies storyline really works, and also to see how the main characters compared.
Based on the French novel written by Gaston Leroux in 1910, this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical was first shown in 1986 at Her Majesty’s Theatre. So, what is it about The Phantom of The Opera that has made it such a phenomenal worldwide success?
Successful films (including 2004) of the same name as the musical doubtless helps to maintain and raise the profile of the stage production. However, a tragic love story, the images of The Phantom at The Paris Opera House, and even the words of “The Phantom of The Opera” create an aura of mystique and intrigue. Put all of this together with the emotional melodies and the musical is a ‘classic’ before I even walk in the door and take my seat in the auditorium. The air of expectation is all around with the audience eagerly awaiting the start.
“NO cameras”, how many times was that said, to many that were in such awe of being in this magical place, particularly when The Paris Opera House chandelier was visible, they so wanted a memento.
Everything about the musical is meticulously put together, from the set and the costumes to the outstanding acting. The whole cast make you believe that you are IN the Paris Opera House.
John Owen-Jones IS The Phantom of The Opera, and his performance was stunning. You can feel his pain and anguish at every moment, with the emotions of his character reaching out to seduce not only Christine, but everyone in the audience. I could not help but feel for his anguish, particularly in the closing scenes.
John has played The Phantom many times and it is clear that he embraces the role each time he steps on to the stage, ensuring that in every performance he is The Phantom of The Opera.
John describes his interpretation of The Phantom in his recent interview in which he says: I see the Phantom as a socially damaged character that was moulded by his upbringing. His sociopathic tendencies are the result of how other people have treated him. He therefore thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to control others as he was once controlled and this makes him very dangerous… I therefore try to imbue him with a sense of great danger and I see him as a man fuelled by rage. My Phantom is filled with self loathing and terrifying anger. In the novel, Christine describes him as having ‘the mighty fury of a demon’ and as ‘the most unhappy and sublime of men’ and that’s how I see him.
With an outstanding voice and a powerful performance, John Owen-Jones is simply brilliant as The Phantom.
Tabitha Webb performed as Christine Daae and her performance was simply breathtaking. With her heart in turmoil she managed to exquisitely convey her emotional conflict together with singing beautifully. When she sang Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, it was one of those magical moments when you can feel the presence of the song embracing you and makes your spine tingle.
This was an impeccable performance by an extremely talented actress that admirably portrays The Phantom’s Christine.
Will Barratt completed the leading cast with a commendable performance as Raoul, and in particular I liked his duet All I ask of You with Christine. He makes a worthy hero and his performance was also faultless.
In putting together an overview of The Phantom of The Opera, I would say this:
I felt that I had witnessed a classic stage production of a romantic, yet tragic love story, with magnificent performances from the cast.
Review of Love Never Dies
Okay, so why did I write such a preamble before writing about the performance of The Phantom of The Opera? Well, the reason is quite simply that your preconceptions of a play or musical WILL affect how you feel when you watch it and of course whether you can be bothered to go and see it in the first place.
Far too many people have written an obituary of Love Never Dies without having been to see the show, and those that have been to see it have either gone with a blighted view, or indeed went before the last set of changes. Interestingly, the production in Melbourne has a different and better set.
Some detractors have said that the characters of The Phantom of The Opera have been destroyed. What utter nonsense!
New York’s Coney Island may not have much romantic connection with The Paris Opera House, but it does offer a refuge for the outward appearance of The Phantom, where he doesn’t feel like an outsider all of the time. His inner-self has NOT changed, as his love for Christine is still there and his ability to have music in his heart is apparent for all to see. In the novel, Christine describes him as having ‘the mighty fury of a demon’ and as ‘the most unhappy and sublime of men’, okay so what has changed?
For the detractors, the characters of Christine and Raoul have evolved, sorry but that is called… life.
On with the show:
Having seen The Phantom of The Opera only days before, did I feel that the story followed on? Well, quite frankly yes it did.
Many of the song and dance routines had an ‘uplifting’ feel to them that made it an enjoyable and entertaining show. However, the deeply moving songs of The Phantom and Christine ensure that the tragic love story continues the theme of The Phantom of The Opera.
Tam Mutu was outstanding as The Phantom, with a heart-rending performance from start to finish. His every song and movement embraced his love of music and Christine, together with his inner torment being plain to see for all. Tam has a fabulous voice and his rendition of ‘Till I hear you sing’ was captivating. A brilliant performance!
Celia Graham was stunning in her portrayal of Christine. She has a beautiful voice and together with every movement she embraced the mood of Christine faultlessly throughout. She ‘touched the hearts’ of the audience with the song Love Never Dies, which is the best I have heard.
The part of Raoul was played by David Thaxton and he was superb. I think that Raoul’s performance enhanced that of The Phantom and Christine, and David did this extremely well. This was a commendable performance in every respect.
For the remainder of the cast I will mention young Harry Polden who excelled as Gustave, Liz Robertson (superb) as Madame Giry, Haley Flaherty (wonderful) as Meg Giry, Charles Brunton as Gangle, Tracey Penn as Fleck, Adam Pearce as Squelch and Kieran Brown Ensemble who were all fabulous. For the rest of the cast, they were brilliant!
Okay, time to summarise:
We went to see The Phantom of The Opera and Love Never Dies in the same week, and from both my partner’s viewpoint and my own, the storyline of Love Never Dies follows on very well from The Phantom of The Opera. Dare I say that Love Never Dies is a more varied and uplifting musical, and that isn’t meant to detract from the Phantom of The Opera.
IF you haven’t been to see Love Never Dies, then I suggest that you do go before it closes as it is a very emotional and entertaining musical. There are some outstanding performances and if you are a romantic, then you cannot help being moved by it.
Why is Love Never Dies closing?
The bottom line is that not enough people are going to see it. Why is this? Well, I refer to what I said earlier about why The Phantom of The Opera continues to be successful. Love Never Dies has much of what The Phantom of The Opera has, but they are both different productions that should be able to survive in the West End.
I think the detractors of Love Never Dies have been a thorn in the side of the production, although I don’t think that has caused its downfall. Sorry to say but I think that the failure of this musical lies firmly at the door of Lord Webber, together with his creative and marketing teams. The musical had ‘flaws’ at the start that should never have been there, as we are not talking about some school play here, but a multi-million pound organisation. The daggers were out and blood spilled before the re-write of the show but the poor marketing has continued. Doubtless that the press have continued with their preconceptions, as have many in the social media network.
The RUG got it wrong at the start of the run of Love Never Dies and they are getting it wrong now. Ask the majority of people that have been to see Love Never Dies what they think of it and you will hear very positive reviews. Look at the number of views of the Love Never Dies songs online!
Reviews by Neil Cheesman – Twitter @LondonTheatre1
Content updated 18th October 2014