Archive for March 16th, 2012

Something Phantastic This Way Comes

This past year, I’ve had a number of guest bloggers contribute to The Ugly Bug Ball.  It’s fun for me to let others do the work!  Here’s a review of Love Never Dies from my friend Dragonfly (aka Nelia).

“Try to deny it

And try to protest

But love won’t let you go

Once you’ve been possessed”

First, may I say that the direct feed of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies to cinemas was simply STUNNING! It was fun and exciting to share this special event with a dozen friends in Denver.  I trust that my review can be fair and objective as I also had the opportunity to see the original London production several times, as well as viewing this filmed version of the Melbourne production twice.

I was personally fascinated by the grainy film clips in the video introducing “The Coney Island Waltz” for the 2009 London press release.  Between Ramin Karimloo’s poignant “Till I Hear You Sing” video and the Waltz, I was immediately hooked on the show’s premise.  The draw was so powerful; I simply had to go the London to see this production with Ramin and to meet him.  I adored seeing Love Never Dies and have been a loyal supporter of the production and cast since it was introduced.

The London production of Love Never Dies gave me the impression that the sparsely furnished and populated sets had “tour” in mind.  Lots of digital projections lent an air of shadowy nostalgia with the funky, vintage Coney Island film footage.  Overall, my memory of seeing LND is essentially grey tones, muted colors and some bright metallic elements.  Perhaps if the Australian production’s imaginative and colorful stage/costume design had been introduced in London, the show would still be successfully running at the Adelphi, and perhaps on Broadway.

The Carousel (Australia)

Carousel in The Coney Island Waltz (Australia)

A vibrant, beautifully crafted and edited film,  Love Never Dies has a good balance of close-ups and long shots; the Felini-esque result doesn’t look or feel like a stage production, but somehow more expansive than the physical limitations a theatrical stage would impose.  This LIVE performance (not dubbed) was filmed over four days, and includes some minimal audience response.  The original cast score, which was recorded a year before the London opening, is beautiful, brilliant, and sophisticated.  It’s a magical, musical rollercoaster ride of intrigue, passion, kidnapping, mystery, and secrets revealed.

The Coney Island Waltz (Australia)

The Coney Island Waltz (Australia)

The basic plot remains essentially the same as the original London production, with a few important changes.  I really liked the new opening scenes:  Phantom performs “Till I Hear You Sing” in the Prologue; then the story opens with “The Coney Island Waltz” in present time, which I think provides a positive and energetic momentum, allowing the story to unfold seamlessly, rather than having London’s essentially depressing, bleak look-back on what had been—before the tragedy…

It would be difficult to discuss all of the wonderful scenes here, so I’ve selected one, from both productions, that stands out:  “The Beauty Underneath.”

The Beauty Underneath

The Beauty Underneath (Australia)

Australia:  A beautiful and fascinating, complex forest of structural elements, and tall glass cases containing a variety of living creatures from a mermaid, to freaks and oddities of all sorts.  I especially liked having a stage full of ensemble players, which lent a frenetic energy and dynamic to the scene as a whole.

The Beauty Underneath (London)

The Beauty Underneath (London)

London:  The Aerie, Phantom’s workshop high above Phantasma, featured many of his bizarre magical, mechanical, and artistic creations.  Phantom and Gustave are essentially alone on stage for much of this scene.

THE PLAYERS

Ben Lewis (Australia) has a trained operatic voice; he’s not a copy of Ramin, but stands firm on his own merit.  Ben’s delivery is technically precise, he’s an intense, anguished, mysterious, menacing, and remote Phantom – reminds me a bit of Gary Oldman’s strangely sensual Dracula when gliding around in his elegant full length robe.

In this filmed version, we don’t get much of a look at Phantom’s disfigurement, which is disappointing, especially after all the time and energy spent in creating and applying the make-up and complicated prosthetics.  We want to see what all the fuss is about…

Anna O'Byrne and Ben Lewis in the Australia production

Anna O'Byrne and Ben Lewis (Australia)

Ramin Karimloo’s unique voice is unequaled in its straightforward, energetic raw and sensual passion, untrained rock delivery, and uninhibited honesty resonating on a primal level right into my heart…

Anna O’Byrne (Australia) and Sierra Boggess (London) are equally excellent as Christine.  Each is classically trained, beautiful, feminine, and comfortable in the trappings of the Victorian era costumes and hairdos.

Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo (London)

Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo (London)

Sharon Millerchip (Australia) is a perky, petite, energetic, talented dancer and singer with a broad emotional range, and perfectly cast as Meg Giry, Ooh La La Girl.

Sharon Millerchip as Meg (Australia)

Sharon Millerchip as Meg and the Ooh La La Girls in Only For You (Australia)

I’m passionate about film; I enjoy comfortable stadium seating and the magic of an image flickering on the silver screen in the dark.  Being on the less than tall side, I’m generally plagued with a “HEAD” obscuring view of the stage, especially when I’ve spent $100 for a theatre ticket.  I believe that digital technology has now opened up a new avenue, offering an unequaled opportunity to experience stage productions and other special events via live feed and edited film, and it’s definitely here to stay.  I’ll line up early and often to enjoy an unobstructed view for under $20.

Australia’s Love Never Dies run is coming to a close; we’re so fortunate that a record of this amazing production has been captured, and that we can own a piece of it via this filmed version.  I think the possibility of a Broadway run at this point is remote—the success of the DVD could change that outcome.

I’m in LOVE with LOVE on stage and screen….

Thank you, Dragonfly!  Your passion certainly comes through here.  Love Never Dies has its US DVD release on May 29, 2012.

All the images used here are from press sources.  The Australian production photos were taken by Jeff Busby.  No copyright infringement is intended.
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