Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Love Never Dies
This is by no means due to the performers, orchestra, costumes, or magnificent sets that combine to deliver an entertaining evening in spite of a weak script and so-so songs. Love Never Dies is, after all, the much anticipated sequel to the record-breaking Broadway smash (12,000 plus performances) The Phantom of the Opera, but, like nearly all sequels, it falls short.
It has been a rough road for Love Never Dies, which when it opened to mixed reviews in London's West End struggled for ten months before it closed for four days for massive rewrites to the music and such, was re-reviewed, and ran for another eight months. It eventually traveled to Australia where with further editing it fared better. It has also enjoyed a good run in Germany and most recently is touring the United States.
It is ten years since the Phantom (Gardar Thor Cortes) haunted the Paris Opera House. We find him once more slaving over a hot pipe organ trying to write his next big hit, "'Til I Hear You Sing," as a huge portrait of his past infatuation, Christine, hangs above him. With the help of Madame Giry (Karen Mason) and her singing daughter Meg (Mary Michael Patterson), the Phantom had escaped France and is now boss over a gaggle of freaks and hoochie-coochie dancers at the famed Coney Island in New York City. Not surprisingly, he still pines for his former captive.
Christine arrives with her nine-year-old son Gustave (Casey Lyons) and husband Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny (Sean Thompson), whose drinking and gambling has wiped out two fortunes (hers and his). She is in America to rebuild her fortune by singing for Oscar Hammerstein.
A mysterious horseless coach arrives manned by some of the sideshow folks who whisk Christine to a Coney Island hotel where (surprise) the Phantom comes into her room through a huge mirror. Where Phantom was a life and death situation, now it seems to be no more than a matter of breaking up a marriage. Who will Christine choose and how will Gustave react to his new "dad"?
In spite of the mix of opera-ish songs mixed with vaudeville dance/striptease numbers ("Bathing Beauty"), the cast manages to give far more clout to the songs than they perhaps deserve. As the Phantom, Gardar Thor Cortes utilizes his enormous catalogue of opera experience to wow the crowd with a capital "W." Meghan Picerno (Christine) does equal justice to her numbers both solo and with Gardar. She has an exceptional soprano voice that brings chills. Young Casey Lyons is an actor and singer far beyond his years. Also to be noted are Karen Mason (Madame Giry), Mary Michael Patterson (Meg Giry), and Sean Thompson (Raoul) who do a fine job with their numbers.
Extremely high marks must go out to Gabriela Tylesova, who does remarkable double duty as set and costume designer. In a word, her work is grand. From the horseless carriage to the opulent hotel room to the stage of Phantasma at Coney Island, and the brightly costumed show people, to the light-outlined sights of Coney Island and, lastly, the huge Phantom mask, it is thrilling. Add to this a spinning turntable and mirrored enclosures, and it is over the top set and costume design.
Of the many fans of the grandeur of the original Phantom of the Opera, some may be in for a bit of disappointment. To their credit, the touring company manages to excel in all aspects of the performance using sheer will. Is it as good as Phantom? No, but few things are. Is it worth seeing? Definitely, due to this stellar cast.
Love Never Dies will be on stage in the State Theatre at Playhouse Square through January 28, 2018. Tickets may be purchased online at www.playhousesquare.org, by phone by calling (216) 241-6000 or by stopping by the Playhouse Square ticket office located in the outer lobby of the State Theatre. For more information on the tour, please visit www.loveneverdies.com.