With the official opening night of Love Never Dies having taken place last night, 9 March 2010, it is what everyone is talking about. There are mixed reviews of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s newest show some finding it weak in plot and perhaps a bit gloomy but one certainly can’t fault the music, the effort of the actors, and the charisma between the two main leads, Phantom (Ramin Karimloo) and Christine (Sierra Boggess). Many find it a disappointment because they were expecting the same as Phantom of the Opera. If it was going to be the same, there would be no need for a new show.
This mix of the heart-stopping and the stomach-lurching (a true kinaesthetic experience) characterises some of the best sequences in Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much-heralded follow-up to The Phantom of the Opera. This latter was – and is – the most commercially successful show in theatre history and, by virtue of that fact, is not an easy piece for which to write a sequel (the fans – or “phans” – are very possessive about the original) nor is it one which self-evidently demands a dramatic extension.
Paul Taylor at the Independent (www.independent.co.uk)
There is much to enjoy in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical. The score is one of the composer’s most seductive. Bob Crowley’s design and Jack O’Brien’s direction have a beautiful kaleidoscopic fluidity. And the performances are good. The problems lie within the book, chiefly credited to Lloyd Webber himself and Ben Elton, which lacks the weight to support the imaginative superstructure.
Michael Billington for The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk)
But then this Phantom is not the phantom we knew. The “poisoned gargoyle who burns in hell” has clearly taken an anger management course in New York. True, he fills his eyrie with oddities, like the skeleton who pushes a cocktail trolley, but he’s very much the considerate gentleman, eager impresario and, soon, doting father. Would he whimsically hang the backstage crew or send a chandelier crashing into a crowd? Not any more. Even his blemish, which only ever looked as if an aspiring seamstress had done a little sewing practice on his face, seems tidier. Beside, say, the Elephant Man, Karimloo’s urbane, melodic, not-so-sinister Phantom might be Cary Grant. Maybe the tattooed giant in his retinue is a plastic surgeon or a pre-Freudian shrink.
Benedict Nightingale for The Times (www.timesonline.co.uk)
I must admit I attended Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-awaited sequel to his world-conquering Phantom of the Opera with a degree of trepidation. Sequels often prove pale shadows of the original work that inspired them, and trail a disagreeable odour of the opportunistic cash-in. More ominously still, many of Lloyd Webber’s most fervent admirers appear to have turned against the new show.
Charles Spencer in the Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk)
So: a hit? Not quite. It is too much an also-ran to the prequel, and its opening is too stodgy. But if it is a miss, it is — like Christine — a noble miss, noble because Lloyd Webber’s increasingly operatic music tries to lift us to a higher plane.
Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail (www.dailymail.co.uk)
It’s easily the pick of his typically lush melodies. Sets and special effects cannot be faulted, the singing is terrific. Director Jack O’Brien cranks up the melodramatic tension to a stunning ending. But phantastic? Afraid not.
Bill Hagerty for The Sun (www.thesun.co.uk)
The music is a more mixed bag. Several numbers are waltz- based, and these are the best part. “Look With Your Heart” is a wistful three-step. Madame Giry’s daughter Meg, a hoochie- coochie dancer, does a vaudeville turn in the strip-tease number “Bathing Beauty.”
Warwick Thompson at Bloomberg (www.bloomberg.com)
That’s the concluding number of the first act, and it actually has some energy. But true to self-sabotaging form, this musical follows that song with the bizarrely unexciting postscript of Mrs. Danvers, I mean Mme. Giry, tossing the kid’s jacket down a stairwell. This is matched, in the second act climax, by what feels like the longest death scene of all time. Relax, I’m not going to tell you who dies (while gasping out a reprise of the title song). Why bother, when from beginning to end, “Love Never Dies” is its very own spoiler.
Ben Brantley at The New York Times (www.nytimes.com)
With director Jack O’Brien, lyricist Glenn Slater and co-librettist Ben Elton, Lloyd Webber has fashioned a deeply personal story once again of re-awakening his own talent, which in the Phantom?s case is an expression of sexual love, and meditating on the transmission of that talent from one generation to the next (from his own father, perhaps and onwards? to whom?). Expert musical supervision by Simon Lee, orchestrations by the ever crucial David Cullen, and lighting to die for by Paule Constable all contribute to this outstanding and heart-stopping occasion.
Michael Coveney at Whatsonstage (www.whatsonstage.com)
Visually, the show is stunning in places, with projections designed by Jon Driscoll. This is technology Lloyd Webber first played with in The Woman in White and here they form a large part of the backdrop, particularly in the opening sequence, during which a grey and deserted Coney Island is cleverly brought back to life.
Matthew Hemley The Stage (www.thestage.co.uk)
Phantom may be the most commercially successful entertainment ever devised. Its aficionados are legion. Love Never Dies is both an attempt to mobilise them and a risky revival of motifs and characters that the original seemed decisively to have put to bed.
Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard (thisislondon.co.uk)
The audience, packed with stars including Sir Michael Caine, Lord Bragg, Graham Norton, Gerard Butler, Sir Terry Wogan and Chris Evans, rose to their feet and cheered as the show reached its climax. Lloyd Webber bowed and blew a kiss to the audience, and kissed those on the stage. The biggest cheers of the night were saved for Ramin Karimloo, who plays the Phantom, and Sierra Boggess, who plays Christine.
Jody Thompson by Mirror.co.uk (www.mirror.co.uk)
What is interesting is that there is usually a love/hate relationship when most shows first start. Look at Phantom of the Opera, for example. Critics were not particularly taken with it either when it first opened in 1986 but it has gone on to perform in 149 cities (in more than 25 countries), has been seen by an estimated 100 million people in a minimum of 14 languages, and has won over 50 major awards. Only time will tell but we wish Love Never Dies and all involved much success.