Love Never Dies but maybe it should
A Broadway sequel that pleases almost no one
Coney Island, 1910. Hidden among the sea of freaks and sideshows is a place called Phantasma, run by a mysterious man known as Mister Y. This tormented soul opens the show with a lament about his long-lost love. Turning toward the audience, his iconic stark white half mask comes into view. Unlike its predecessor, The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies dispenses with the possibility that the Phantom could be an apparition—a key aspect of his character.
The waltz following is a swirl of color on stage, welcoming the crowd to the Monster’s Ball and confirming that Madame Giry and her daughter Meg have also arrived in Phantasma. It isn’t long until Christine Daae appears with Raoul and a young son named Gustave in tow. As the classic characters reunite and play out a similar story to the original, the audience finds themselves longing for a narrative that makes sense.
To understand the point of this show, one must be well-versed in the original story. In short, after being haunted by the disfigured and unhinged Phantom, Christine is forced to choose between him or her childhood friend Raoul. She chooses Raoul, as a mob is hunting down the Phantom who has disappeared, leaving audiences to decide if he is killed by the mob or escaped through the tunnels beneath the Opera House.
The gorgeous design and sets of Love Never Dies attempt to mask the most unbelievable answer possible: that a man who was sold to a circus as a child due to his deformity would travel across the ocean to New York in order to cage freaks of his own for a paying audience. The pinnacle set piece is the entrance gate to the circus: half white mask, half wire face, its eye lighting up red or blue depending on the mood of the scene. It remains disappointing, however, not to see more of the Phantom’s inventions or even his new lair.
Raoul has evolved into a drunken, abusive husband, and a horrible father. Having squandered his fortune, he forces Christine to travel to America to perform and selfishly bets on if she will sing the Phantom’s aria or not.
Once again, Christine is forced to choose between the Phantom and Raoul, one of many instances mirroring stage blocking and musical themes from the original show.
The fan service and all the tiny details that echo the original are the best parts of the production. Sadly, even those little morsels of enjoyment aren’t enough to distract from the cringey lyrics and poor direction throughout.
From the moment the curtain goes up, it goes downhill, culminating in a lackluster and confusing ending. Love Never Dies isn’t worthy of being a sequel to Phantom and should be advertised instead as a reimagination that caters only to the most diehard fans of the original.