Love Never Dies -Musical

Why see it:
-Soaring music with whispers of “Phantom of the Opera”
-A set that is bigger-than-life and full of moving parts
-The voice of Meghan Picerno as Christine
-Not necessary to be a fan of “Phantom”

Summary and thoughts:

This sequel is set ten years after “The Phantom of the Opera” musical ends. The Phantom now keys a sideshow named “Phantasm.” But rather than living in the sewers below the Paris opera house, our beloved, feared, sartorial, oratorical, organ-playing, full-of-angst villain/hero has become established in a Coney Island, NY, establishment.

He is the hidden face behind a circus-like vaudevillian effort with characters big and small, oddities, monsters, and his featured performer. She is Meg Giry, daughter of Madame Giry, who engineered the post-opera escape from France for this trio to stay together. Meg wants nothing more than to please the one still known to her as “Master.”

His “I want moment” comes full-throated in the opening song: his sole desire is to again hear the voice of Christine Daaé, his prized Paris pupil. His cast of monsters helps create the opportunity. His devoted Girys discern his intentions. His antagonist Raoul, husband to Christine, assails the act that will tear apart a little family.

His ability to walk through mirrors gives him The Phantom’s persistent quality of an outstretched, fully-extended upper hand.

Alas, the writers for “Love Never Dies” have made this battle too difficult. Four parties are warring: Phantom, Christine, Raoul, and the Girys. Further, they are all fighting their inner demons as well as each other. Complex conflict causes consternation for the audience; leave that depth to novels.

The prime highlight of the show is its soaring music with just enough whispers of “Phantom of the Opera” themes. The elaborate bigger-than-life set, full of moving parts, is another element that shines and delights.

The voice of Meghan Picerno is captivating as Christine for this touring show. Her operatic renditions top the charts and her acting commands the stage well. Mary Michael Patterson as Meg Giry fills her given vaudevillian role; after one strong scene, too many of her first act songs are fleeting bits; she shines greater in the second.

Christine’s ten-year-old son Gustave (believed to be played this night by Casey Lyons, alternating the role with Jake Heston Miller) exceeds any expectations for composure and voice. Characters Gangle, Squelch, and Fleck provide a proper measure of comic relief and entertaining scene transition.

The ensemble and crew were hard at work throughout, making positive additions to the spectacle. The orchestra contributed mightily and fully showed their talents coming out of intermission.

The Phantom of Gardar Thor Cortes delivers solos in a grand manner that fills the arena, and likely the lobby and outside walks as well. Yet there was something sandpaperish about some duets that merged this voice with that of Christine. Also distracting was the masked one’s overplayed acting. Such hyperbolic portrayal of an epic stage character might humble even the parodies of “Weird Al” Yankovic.

The venue is the finest in our midst for this big show. Theater audio was terrific. That is expected, but there was worry after a performance this season of “Circus 1903” had poor acoustics. The crew handled the elaborate sets well, though some staging glitches were evident: that ‘BANG!’ behind the curtain during a scene change didn’t force a squeal from Squelch; that long-lasting errant spotlight on the golden upper curtain wasn’t symbolizing a full moon after all.

“Love Never Dies” was well worth the time. One doesn’t have to be versed in “Phantom of the Opera” to partake in this show, but those who are can appreciate the connections in this new story.

Viewed November 2, 2017, Durham Performing Arts Center, NC

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