The Korea Herald


Lloyd Webber bets again on ‘Phantom’ sequel

By Korea Herald

Published : Feb. 5, 2012 - 20:14

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Ben Lewis portrays Phantom in a scene from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Love Never Dies,” a sequel to “The Phantom of the Opera.” (AP-Yonhap News) Ben Lewis portrays Phantom in a scene from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Love Never Dies,” a sequel to “The Phantom of the Opera.” (AP-Yonhap News)
NEW YORK (AP) ― Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much-awaited sequel to “The Phantom of the Opera’’ is called “Love Never Dies,’’ but the musical defied its title: after a short life in London, it died. Now he hopes it can be resurrected.

Lloyd Webber has quietly helped rework the musical for a current stage production in Australia, and Americans unable to go Down Under will have a chance to see it when a filmed version hits movie theaters this month.

It’s a vastly improved work, coherent and visually beautiful, with a darkly haunting score. The composer hopes the film of the musical ― available at hundreds of movie theaters across the U.S. on Feb. 28 and March 7 ― will spark new interest in the work, even from Broadway producers.

“I’m very pleased with it. One just hopes that now that we’ve got that, maybe this production can come here,’’ Lloyd Webber said during a recent interview. “I think the production is as good as one could hope it to be.’’

Backed by a 21-piece orchestra, the revitalized “Love Never Dies’’ production captured at The Regent Theatre in Melbourne features a 36-person cast, including Ben Lewis as the Phantom and Anna O’Byrne as Christine. The filmed version, directed by Brett Sullivan, uses multiple cameras that both sweep across the stage and capture tiny facial expressions.

A new life for “Love Never Dies’’ would be a vindication for Lloyd Webber, who considers it to be his best score, but admits he wasn’t able to properly oversee the show’s London opening because he was battling cancer. It closed in London after 18 months.

“Andrew is like a bulldog with these things: He will not let anything go,’’ said Glenn Slater, who supplied lyrics and the book for the sequel. “He has been fighting tenaciously for this to get its proper day in the sun. Knock wood, maybe this Australian production does it because it certainly seems to have changed peoples’ minds about the piece.’’

The follow-up to the longest-running show in Broadway history had a rough debut in London in 2010, with one critic nicknaming it “Paint Never Dries.’’ The sequel is set 10 years later in 1802 and shifts the location from Paris to New York.

The Phantom, still moping after his beloved Christine and running a Coney Island freak show, lures her to America, where she arrives with husband Raoul and her 10-year-old son. Instead of the romance of “Phantom,’’ the sequel is about a love triangle. Its atmosphere is more autumnal, more about regret than love, and the plot is about the consequences of the first musical. Critics were left confused and unhappy, and the creative team wasn’t pleased either.