There is an oft-cited quote by Anton Checkov that states, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has a corrolary: “If you have never shown a pistol at all, and there is no reason for any character in the show to have one, and you have already established that the character holding the pistol is going to kill someone by drowning them, so their possession of a pistol wouldn’t make any sense whatsoever, it should still be fired.”
In an effort to do my “because it was there” best to experience new things, and also ill-considered sequels to old things, we went to the cinematic showing of the filmed Australian mulligan shot of the critically-reviled London production of the sequel what’s considered to be Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hugest experiment in wretched excess of the 1980s, The Phantom of The Opera, who is there inside your mind.
(Now there is a terrible song stuck in your head! Mwahahahahaa!)
I encouraged the editor of the Memphis Flyer to send his theater critic to review the show and got the response (from the critic) “Why you wanna hurt me like that?” Because I am an awful person. And also because there is a joy in reading bad reviews unlike any other. To wit:
“Ten long years” after the Paris Opera House burned down the Phantom has relocated (with Frau Blucher and her daughter) to Coney Island and set up a show of his own, and has pretended to be Oscar Hammerstein (the first, who built opera houses, not the second, who wrote racist musicals) in order to lure his protege Christine (now married to Raoul, who has developed a SEVERE gambling problem) to America to sing for him.
Like Superman Returns, Love Never Dies is concerned with the protagonist’s secret love child with the heroine. The Phantom and Christine shared one night of passion after the events of the first musical, which they sing about with nauseating detail (I can’t remember if the word “thrusting” is sung during their reminescence, but it might as well have been). This boinking (over and over again, according to the song) produced a son, Gustav, whom the Phantom recognizes immediately as his own because Gustav is capable of playing the piano (the ladyfriend noted that Christine’s father was a musician. Her knowledge of this bit of trivia leads me to believe that she’s a much bigger fan of the original than she let on during the negotiations about going), and this would naturally be the result of genetics, and not lessons. This leads, two and a half hours later, to a finale which would be SO MUCH MORE SATISFYING if it were called “Obi-Wan Never Told You What Happened To Your Father” but is instead called “What Did You Expect From an Opera, a Happy Ending?”
In between, everyone is terrible to one another, there are some cool trick mirror obelisks, a carousel, rollercoaster track, and Christine sings a big, um, aria? (the immediately-forgettable song which gives the musical its immediately-forgettable name) while dressed as a peacock. Because nobody told the production designers don’t know that peacocks are boy birds, that’s why.
The last showing of it was last night, so you’ll have to wait for it to come to Netflix or buy a region-free DVD player and order the DVD from Amazon UK, or wait for the tour or catch a flight to Sydney to watch it yourself.