The Love Never Dies experience for a Phantom of the Opera fan (Part 2 of 2: Story and characters)

August 20, 2012 at 12:59 am (Articles / Interviews) (, , , )

Warning: Here there be spoilers, strong language, and assumption of familiarity with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Phantom of the Opera. CONTINUED FROM PART 1.

And now that I am well into the territory of comparing Phantom and Love, I’d like to talk about the characters and story.

Critics previously panned the Love Never Dies libretto, so much that a lot of the story was re-worked between its premiere in London and its staging in Melbourne (which went on to become the DVD). The Australian version features significant changes including new direction, staging, costumes, a new prologue, and a few additional bits of dialogue. Even then, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that the whole body of the story rings hollow.

love never dies 2

Basically, Phantom invites Christine to sing in his new carnival, because he misses her. Also, he has a kid with her from a one-night stand they had right before Christine married Raoul, because, love. Also, Madame Giry doesn’t like this because she and Meg have worked their arses off to finance Phantom’s carnival empire. Which is particularly harsh on Meg because she’s actually been prostituting herself to pay Phantom’s bills. Because, love. And Raoul finds himself taking Phantom’s place in the Raoul-Phantom-Christine love triangle because he doesn’t know shit about music, and he’s a drunk and a gambler. In the end Meg goes off the deep end, threatens Gustav’s life, and accidentally shoots Christine. She then completely disappears while Phantom and Christine sing about undying passion and the difficulties of single parenthood for Phantom. The end.

It’s a flawed story but if you aren’t much invested in its precursor, it’s forgivable enough, given how awesome the production and actors are. But even then, it’s hard to get over things like Raoul just sort of caving and letting Christine end up with Phantom because he figures it’s better that way, or Meg accidentally shooting Christine to mark the climax of the whole play.

When you look at all this as ‘what happened after the events of the first musical’ though, what this seems to underscore is that if you romanticize the Phantom enough, and bend the rest of the characters out of shape, you may achieve a situation where Phantom and Christine get a happy ending, except since life must always be a bitch to Phantom, not really.

While I’m all for alternate interpretations of existing fictional characters, and adding to / twisting / re-telling popular stories, and am completely amenable to a world where Phantom hooks up with Christine and they have a kid, it’s not cool to have this happen with the characters from a previously established set-up, who in no way would have been heading in the direction they ended up in, in the sequel.

Why the hell would Meg fall in love with the Phantom? And why would Raoul descend into alcohol and gambling? Why did Madame Giry become such a bitch? And if we’d decided at the end of Phantom of the Opera that Christine has chosen Raoul, as opposed to the man who kidnapped her and killed Buquet and Piangi, why did she decide to sleep with him at some point after?

Andrew Lloyd Webber has said that Love Never Dies can be taken as a stand-alone musical, and not as a strict sequel. This would make more sense, except that a lot of the cutest moments in Love Never Dies are actually the bits where it directly hearkens back to Phantom of the Opera. Among this is Christine being referred to as the ‘Prima Donna’, and Raoul’s farewell happening to the tune of ‘Little Lotte’, and Phantom standing on his balcony, singing ‘come to me, Angel of Music’.

It takes severe retconning to bring the characters to where they are in Love Never Dies, which does not bode well. A hint of this retconning can be found at the end of the Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary special (10:09 in the above video), which shows Christine showing an awful lot of regret as she leaves Phantom in his lair for what we all would have figured to be the last time. Christine, played masterfully by Sierra Boggess, sings the first few lines of the ‘All I Ask Of You’ reprise in a way that could be construed as her singing it to Phantom, and not Raoul. In which case a lot of what happens in Love Never Dies becomes marginally more plausible. Marginally.

I ended up reconciling my Love Never Dies experience with all my deep-seated Phantom feels by deciding it was taking place in an Alternate Universe. In one alternate universe, Captain America marries Iron Man. In another, Christine had a pre-wedding one-night stand with Phantom resulting in a son named Gustave. It’s not my reality, but it’s an interesting one to ponder upon, and one that makes watching Love Never Dies an altogether more entertaining experience.

I now leave you with a video of Ramin Karimloo singing ‘Til I Hear You Sing Once More’. My feelings for this pretty much encapsulate what I feel about Love Never Dies – I go from ‘dayum that guy can sing’, to ‘that’s kind of a clunky rhyme scheme’, to ‘I’m waiting to be swept away but it’s not happening’, to ‘It’s. Okay. I guess.’

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2 Comments

  1. The Love Never Dies experience for a Phantom of the Opera fan (Part 1 of 2: Lyrics and stuff) « In the Grayworld said,

    […] Part 2 will take a look at the story and characters of Love Never Dies. Hoo-rah. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  2. moi said,

    AHAHAHA the way you wrote the story. you’ve always been sooo good at synopses :D

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