This weekend I saw the Kimmel Center’s production of “Love Never Dies,” the sequel to “Phantom of the Opera.” I had never seen the original show and was only given a brief summary of it prior to entering the theater, so I think there was some context that I was missing. Despite this, I found it to be pretty enjoyable if a little slow at times.
The story takes place 10 years after “Phantom of the Opera” and follows Christine Daae after she agrees to perform at the Coney Island Circus. Along with her are her husband and her 10-year-old son. They find familiar faces at the circus in the form of Madame Giry and her daughter Meg, as well as the Phantom. There were some interesting character-driven conflicts and reveals that effectively kept my attention throughout the show. However, there were a few scenes that dragged, a few times that I wished the dialogue was not sung for clarity’s sake and a couple dissatisfying things about the ending, but for the most part the story worked well enough.
About 85 percent of the play was songs, and it was evident that the actors were cast mostly for their singing abilities, though they didn’t lack much in acting either. There were six lead actors, three prominent circus performers and an ensemble that was mostly featured in the circus scenes, including one that did some impressive maneuvers on stilts. Though the actors who played the Phantom and Christine gave impressive performances and were clearly comfortable on stage, the most notably impressive performance came from the kid who played Christine’s son Gustave. The people who played the three main circus performers brought a lot of genuine energy and enthusiasm to their parts, and while they were only featured a few scattered times, they helped tremendously in establishing the right tone for the show.
The songs were not among the best that musical theater has to offer, but none were terrible and there were a couple that I definitely enjoyed. An orchestra seated in front of the stage provided the music, and while they occasionally drowned out the actors, I think the live music helped the play flow more smoothly and naturally than if it had used pre-recorded music.
The sets were very impressive, although my high balcony seating prevented me from seeing all of it. Many of the props and set designs reminded me of some of Tim Burton’s movies. But most notable was the huge rotating circle that comprised most of the stage. This was something I had never seen in a theatrical production and it was definitely used to good effect.
One of the people I went to the show with agreed with me afterward that it made us want to go see “Phantom of the Opera,” which I think is a better testament to the show’s quality than anything else. The show is no longer playing, but after seeing how the Kimmel Center produced it, I would recommend it to anyone as a venue of high-quality theater based on this production.