LOVE Never Dies, the extravagant new $9 million production of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, opened to a standing ovation in Melbourne at the weekend.
Director Simon Phillips was given carte blanche by Lloyd Webber to create a totally new conception of the musical after its London counterpart was last year plagued with bad reviews.
The multi-award winning composer spent the better part of the week with Philips tweaking the show before its Australian premiere at the Regent Theatre.
“I wasn’t really happy with this in London and here it is – exactly as I wanted it to be,” said a beaming Lloyd Webber at the opening night curtain call.
Set on Coney Island at the turn of last century, 10 years after he fled the Paris Opera, the show opens with the phantom ( played exceptionally by WAAPA-trained Ben Lewis ) singing the haunting ‘Til I hear you Sing.
Despite being lord and master of Mister Y’s Phantasma where circus freaks reside, he still pines after his lost love Christine (an outstanding Anna O’Byrne).
The ensemble’s first big production number, The Coney Island Waltz, sets the mood for the plot.
It’s here the full scale of designer Gabriela Tylesova’s breathtaking fairground set (which itself got applause) and lavish colourful costumes are first revealed from behind a giant mask and curtain.
Complemented by Graeme Murphy’s choreography, the show is full of massive musical numbers and heart-wrenching ballads – too many to mention but all handled superbly by cast and principals.
Sharon Millerchip reprises her role as Meg Giry, Simon Gleeson is splendid as Christine’s husband Raoul and Maria Mercedes rules with an iron fist as Madame Giry.
The plotline may be slightly weak and predictable in parts, but there are sufficient twists and turns to keep the audience engaged.
It will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and I defy even the toughest theatre-goers not to shed a tear towards the end (even if disguised with a cough).
Love Never Dies can only be described as a visual and aural extravaganza of mammoth proportions and if opening night was any indication of audience appreciation then this all-Australian package has certainly delivered a sure fire-hit and created two new music theatre stars.
The reviewer was a guest of the Really Useful Company Asia Pacific.