Posts Tagged ‘Love Never Dies’

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.

Farewell to Love Never Dies

Today is the last day of Love Never Dies in London.  This sequel to The Phantom of the Opera has had a bumpy ride since it opened in March 2010.   I’ve never seen the musical, and before last spring I wasn’t even aware of it, but my passion for Les Misérables brought lead actor Ramin Karimloo to my attention.  He played Enjolras in the 25th anniversary concert, and since seeing the US television broadcast of the concert, I have been following him on twitter and his facebook page. 

Because I haven’t seen Love Never Dies, I’m somewhat removed from the emotions surrounding today’s closing.   That’s not to say I’m completely unfamiliar with the musical.  I’ve watched official clips on YouTube, visited the official website, and a very generous friend sent me the cast recording.   These are not substitutes for sitting in the Adelphi Theatre and experiencing the actual musical.  I know that, and that makes me sad.   What I will miss after today, though, is following the news about Love Never Dies from Karimloo and his fans.  For the last six months, tracking this drama has been surprisingly interesting.  First Karimloo was leaving the cast after a year as The Phantom, then he stayed on.  Then he was leaving in September.  Then the news leaked to the press, before the cast was told, that the show itself would be closing today.  The emotions surrounding this closing have covered all the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and for some, acceptance.

A new production of Love Never Dies opened this summer in Melbourne, and a touring production is planned, so the show goes on.  The Melbourne production is reportedly being filmed for a DVD release, and fans have been vocal about wanting a recording of the London production.  I can’t say I’m too optimistic about that happening.  I have no doubt that some type of recording has been made, but that doesn’t mean it will ever be released to the public.   I have more optimism about the upcoming Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary concert, also starring Ramin Karimloo.   I’m also feeling optimistic about Karimloo performing in other roles in the future where we can see his real face.  It’s a nice face, and I’d like to see more of it.

So, farewell, Love Never Dies.  My best to all the cast, and to the faithful fans who waited at the stage door while Karimloo got out of his Phantom makeup, who tweeted to pass the time, and who posted their stage door photos and shared their stories.  It’s been awfully good fun.

Sheytoons at Dublin Castle, Camden, London

As promised, here is a report of the Sheytoons show at Dublin Castle on April 24th.  Sheytoons is the band led by Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser.  I couldn’t attend, since I’m here in San Francisco, so Claire has joined me as a guest:

I was flattered to be asked to write something on the recent Sheytoons gig I was lucky enough to attend.  Don’t think I’ve ever been a ‘guest blogger’ before!  Stacey’s blog is great—I love seeing people with the same passion for theatre as me.  First I thought I’d write a bit about the concert and then try to answer a few questions.

Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons at Dublin Castle

I’ve followed this great band from right before their first guest spot at Hadley’s cabaret in October.  Their mix of folk and bluegrass with great vocals and beautiful lyrics really is very special.  It was an exciting night, seeing them play their first real gig at Dublin Castle.  The venue is in the back area of a rather dingy-looking pub in perhaps not the most glamorous area of London.  But, boy did it work.  The excellent support act Dharma Sunset had the packed venue ready for a great evening.  It was intimate and relaxed.  I’m not sure if the band or the crowd was having more fun.  They played all their songs to date, and it’s great to hear how much some of them have grown.  We got treated to great solos by Ramin and Hadley and then to some of their new material.  The whole group is so talented—I know they can go a long way.  The great relationship between band mates shows, and they put their heart and soul into everything they do with the band.  It’s a special opportunity to see two of the West End’s most talented performers doing something they love, showing  just how talented they are as musicians.

Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons at Dublin Castle

Sheytoons has some different faces sometimes, but they are always led by Ramin and Hadley, who do all the songwriting together, playing guitar and banjo and providing the main vocals, too.  I’ll introduce the band as it was on Sunday:

Tom Deering (keyboard), Nick Pini (bass), Ruth Irons (violin), Roy Pfeffer (drums, doing a great job at very short notice), Rosie Craig (backing vocals–Rosie can currently be seen in London Road at the National Theatre).

Ramin Karimloo (vocals, guitar and banjo) – Iranian Canadian Ramin formed Sheytoons with Hadley nearly a year ago, after suggesting to a record company that of course he could write music.  With best friend Hadley, it transpires that he most definitely can.  He’s developed his guitar skills and learned banjo and now sounds pretty awesome on both.  Ramin is a hot property in the West End right now, wearing the famous mask in Love Never Dies until September.  He is so talented it’s unreal.  I’d urge everyone to catch him while we’ve still got him in the West End.  He is also the most genuine, down to earth, generally lovely guy I’ve ever met.  He’s so good to his fans.  It has always been a pleasure to support him.

Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons at Dublin Castle

Hadley Fraser (vocals, guitar) – Hadley is one of the most underrated talents in the West End. He’s been unlucky with some of his shows, but that is to change in June, when he joins the Les Mis family again as Javert.  He is an incredibly talented musician, turning his hand to anything.  He has a stunning voice and guitar skills which are second to none.

I’m quite impressed if I’ve not bored you silly by this point, but I’ll now try to answer some of Stacey’s questions:

How long did Sheytoons perform?  How many people were in the audience? What was the male/female ratio?

They played for an hour and a quarter with approximately 150 people there. It was great to see some other West End faces and the guys’ families coming along to support them.  I’d say the male/female ratio was pretty equal—surprisingly!

Did they start on time?  And why was Hadley Fraser in the dark?

They started on time after an excellent support act.  The lighting hasn’t come out well on the videos, but yes, Ramin is lit almost too brightly and Hadley to the side not as much.

Did you get a look at Ramin’s new tattoos? Did he show them off?

I have seen Ramin’s new tattoos. (I don’t like tattoos in general, but his are pretty cool and have great personal meaning for him.)  He is very proud of them, but apart from what you could see round his t-shirt, no.  He wouldn’t have ‘shown them off’ at this sort of event.

Did the band interact with fans offstage? Pose for photos, give autographs?

There was some interaction before with fans—they were chatting easily with people over a beer outside.  Only a few saw them after, as most of us ran for the last tube.  But yes, it seems they were as giving with their time as ever.

Were there any funny mishaps?

A few mishaps.  They shot off far too fast on one song and had to restart.  Then Ramin forgot to plug in his guitar at one point, which Hadley milked for all it was worth: “Take your time, Ramin, whenever you’re ready!”  There is always lots of banter when they are together—they are hilarious.

Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons at Dublin Castle

Do Ramin and Hadley write all their songs together, or are some written by just one?

All the songs are joint ventures.  They use the internet etc. if needed, to bounce ideas as they are both so busy. You’ll often see Ramin leave the Stage Door with a guitar.  (He even took his banjo to Malaysia earlier in the month where he was performing in a concert—he’s songwriting all the time.) When their busy schedules allow, Hadley and the rest of the band are regulars in Ramin’s huge dressing room at the Adelphi for impromptu jam sessions.

Any new faces in the audience?  Did you see lots of familiar faces from the Stage Door?

I did see some new faces which is always lovely, but it was also a great evening with friends, too.

Thank you for reading.  Please support Sheytoons; they have an official website and are on Twitter and Facebook. I have uploaded videos of the whole set at Dublin Castle to my You Tube channel (clairetrillwood).  Enjoy!

Thank you, Claire! I hope you come back for the next Sheytoons gig.  I also hope other fans who were there will add to this report in the comment section.  Well, even if you weren’t there, leave a comment!

Credit where credit is due:  I made the screencaps in photoshop from videos posted by tnlew and steffiG79 on YouTube, with their gracious permission.   Please do not post these elsewhere without credit or permission. 

Related posts:   Please Sir, I Want Some More   Enjolras & Grantaire  Enjolras    Grantaire   Les Mis: To The Barricade!    My Les Mis    Ramin Karimloo    Hadley Fraser

Ramin Karimloo

These images are from the official video of ‘Til I Hear You Sing from Love Never Dies, the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera.  Ramin Karimloo is a new favorite, obviously. 

Ramin Karimloo, Love Never Dies, Til I Hear You Sing

Click image to see larger versions.

(No copyright infringement intended.  So, uh—go watch the video and buy the song, or the album, or tickets to the musical.)

Please Sir, I Want Some More

I’m sitting here this week asking myself, what’s the point of writing about the London entertainment scene from San Francisco?  It feels like I’m in exile here.  Still, a friend just made an excellent point.  She said, “Hell, it is your blog, so you should write about whatever you want.”  Taking that to heart, I’m going share my internet research with other fans of the Les Misérables 25th anniversary concert.  If you’re like me, the concert left you wanting to see more from these talented performers.

Ramin Karimloo (Enjolras) and Hadley Fraser (Grantaire):  These two fellows are kind of a package deal.  Friends offstage, they formed a band called Sheytoons last summer.  Sheytoons is a Farsi expression meaning “climb down from the Devil’s donkey.”  That seems like a lot of words to pack into two syllables, but it’s a great image.  You can watch Sheytoons videos on YouTube, or at www.raminkarimloo.com or www.hadleyfraser.com.  They don’t have a CD yet, but their sites promise that something is coming in the near future.  On Easter Sunday, April 24th, they are playing a gig at Dublin Castle in Camden, London.  I can’t attend, so I’m sending a friend in my place.  She will take photos, copious notes, and give us a full report.

Sheytoons logo

Ramin Karimloo is currently starring as The Phantom in Love Never Dies, the new sequel to The Phantom of the Opera.  His commitment is until September 3, 2011.  He just announced on twitter that he will also be playing The Phantom for The Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary concert in October.  (These 25th Anniversary concerts just keep coming, don’t they?!)  That’s pretty impressive, because a lot of big names have done the role over the years.  Hopefully it will be filmed and released on DVD the same way the Les Mis concert was.  I rented the movie version of Phantom earlier this week, because Karimloo is listed in the credits as “Christine’s Father.”  I watched the 2½ hour movie looking for him, only to discover that his appearance was nothing more than a framed sepia photograph in one scene.  There’s a quick clip of him performing as Raoul in a documentary on the DVD bonus disc—it’s the scene with the noose.

Ramin Karimloo

Ramin Karimloo

Karimloo is really smart about using the internet and social networking sites.  He’s got his official website, a twitter account (with over 10,000 followers), a facebook fan page, and a YouTube channel separate from the Sheytoons one.  For some reason, his YouTube channel has no videos, but he has over 700 subscribers waiting for an upload.  There are plenty of YouTube videos to be found on other channels, featuring him singing, being interviewed and just acting silly.  Karimloo has a solo CD (Within the Six Square Inch) but, according to his website, it is “sold out.”  I don’t know if was self-produced or released through a record label, but apparently no more copies will be made available.  At amazon.co.uk, there is a WWII musical concept album called Bluebird featuring Karimloo, available as a CD or mp3 download.

By all accounts, Karimloo is personable, polite, and friendly to his many fans.  He signs autographs, poses for photos, and still says “ma’am.”  His messages on facebook and his video blogs convey a sense of humor and a sincere desire to make fans feel included and informed.

Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser

Karimloo and Fraser, with a bottle.

Now, on to his friend.  Hadley Fraser will be taking over the role of Inspector Javert in the West End production of Les Misérables on June 23rd, appearing with Alfie Boe and Matt Lucas.  He has played Marius in the past, and he was Grantaire (the guy with the bottle) in the anniversary concert.   The role of Javert is a quite a change from romantic youth and drunken cynic, but I’m sure he’s up to the challenge.  He might even make the audience feel sad when Javert kills himself.

Hadley Fraser as Grantaire, with bottle once again, in the Les Miserables concert

Hadley Fraser as Grantaire, with bottle once again, in the Les Miserables concert

I really like Fraser’s website.  It doesn’t take things too seriously, and it’s got a tongue-in-cheek style that’s refreshing.  Many websites are so busy hard-selling that they forget to be fun.  This guy comes across as fun.  (Just watch this for proof!)   He’s also on twitter, and his tweets are entertaining, although he uses twitter often to communicate with friends and fellow performers.  This isn’t a bad thing, but some of his tweets don’t make much sense to the rest of us.  Fraser was in an episode of Dr Who (season 2, episode 12, “Army of Ghosts”) and a horror film called The Lost Tribe.  Both of these are available streaming on Netflix, but be sure to search for “Lost Tribe” because Netflix doesn’t bother to include the “The.”  Sadly, Fraser doesn’t survive to the end of this film, but happily, this means you don’t have to watch the whole thing.  (Sorry, I’m just not a horror fan.)  YouTube has a trailer for a film called Convincing Clooney with Fraser—and Wilson Cruz, who I’ve met.  (Ha!  One degree of separation!)  Last but not least, my new favorite song is Fraser singing “Again” from Keys:  The Music of Scott Alan.

Hadley Fraser in The Lost Tribe (notice a pattern?)

Hadley Fraser in The Lost Tribe (notice a pattern?)

Robert Madge (Gavroche):  Since I started blogging about Les Misérables a couple of weeks ago, there have been many internet searches for young Robert Madge reflected in my blog stats.  I can even tell when the concert has aired on TV again.  The Gavroche post has received the most comments I’ve ever had.   I assume this is because there’s not a lot on the internet about him yet.  He doesn’t have an official website, a facebook fan page, or even a wikipedia entry (which can change at any moment!).   This could be because his management and the press aren’t fully aware of the interest that the Les Mis concert has generated in this young performer.   It could be that he’s being protected from too much exposure at such a young age.   Hopefully, Madge will do more television and films, allowing international fans to see his work.  Until then, here is a playlist of clips on YouTube where he can be seen.   Some of them are “blink and you miss him” brief, but they include several TV appearances, clips from Oliver! and Les Mis, an audio clip from Mary Poppins, and an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Robert Madge as The Artful Dodger in Oliver!

Robert Madge as The Artful Dodger in Oliver!

Over at Netflix, Madge appears in episode 5, “Succubi,” of Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire, which is available streaming.   His scene is at the 13:15 mark, and he’s really great, but be warned.  The rest of the show is crude and raunchy.   Appearing in the scene with Madge is Matt Lucas, who played Thenardier in the Les Mis concert.  It’s interesting that the concert wasn’t their first time working together.  It’s also amusing how often Robert Madge has to work with a dirty face.

Robert Madge in Krod Mandoon

Robert Madge in Kröd Mändoon

After the Les Mis concert, Madge appeared in the RSC musical Matilda, based on the Roald Dahl book, but it is no longer playing in Stratford.  There’s a good chance that it will move to the West End, since the reviews and the audience reaction were excellent.  There hasn’t been any official word, and I don’t know if Madge is committed to a West End run.  I’m watching and waiting.

There were other great performers in the concert, like Matt Lucas and Lea Salonga.  I’ve been watching Little Britain and listening to Salonga as Eponine in the 10th anniversary concert.  There’s only so much time in the day, though, and this post has gone on long enough.

Update: Here’s our report on Sheytoon’s Dublin Castle showMatilda opened to successful reviews and ticket sales in the West End, but Robert Madge is not part of the cast.  Over on YouTube, his episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures (The Temptation of Sarah Jane) has been removed.  These things get re-posted often, so keep searching for it.

Related posts:  My Les Mis   Gavroche   To the Barricade!   Ramin Karimloo   Grantaire   Enjolras & Grantaire   Thénardier Waltz   Gavroche: Liar!   Bring Him Home   Enjolras   Les Mis: The Originals   24601   Fantine   Les Mis:  The Streets of Paris   Les Mis: The Big Opening   Farewell to Love Never Dies

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