Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Son of the Phantom

Usually I'm not one to write long rants about movies, books or musicals I don't like.
I don't see any reason spending that much time with something you hate - the world is full of things you can enjoy instead!
But a little article by Jussi Tossavainen in yesterday's Helsingin Sanomat was a little too much for me.

It's a part of "Personal - A culture journalist who has seen all gets emotional" series, so it's not a real critique. But anyway... Some of what Tossavainen says about the sequel of The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, seems ridiculous to me.

In the text Tossavainen tells how much he liked the show.
"Judging by the shivers the show gave me it's almost perfect", he says. "Melodies start playing in your head right away. -- I almost cried when Sierra Boggess, playing Christine, finally sang the aria The Phantom wrote for her, Love Never Dies. -- I'm looking forward seeing if in the next ten years sir Andrew will make another sequel - titled The Son of the Phantom of the Opera, of course. I hope so!"
So far so good. I've listened to Love Never Dies, and while I think some songs are pretty but in its entirety it's nothing spectacular - not to mention the silly plot - I'm okay with someone else liking it. And I haven't seen it live, which of course might make it better.

But then comes this.
"In Britain musicals are taken more seriously than in Finland. It's still a little bit amusing that the fans of the original The Phantom of the Opera have got furious about the sequel, even though even the composer is the same. They think Christine and Raoul should've lived happily ever after. -- I'm not such a puritan myself. Vice versa: sixty years old, sir Andrew might have created the most gorgeous musical of his career."

I'd like to disagree here.
Firstly, I think that even though there might be better things to do than tell everybody how you hate Love Never Dies, the fans have every right to get mad.
You see, I like to imagine the creation of the show's plot went as follows...

Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has invited some fans of the original Phantom to his office. The fans sit a little nervously in armchairs, watching the man who has composed their favourite musical shyly.

"We're going to have a little chat today", sir Andrew tells them. "I'd like to hear your thoughts of the first Phantom so I can make the best possible sequel. Let's start: what do you think of the character of The Phantom? What do you like about him?"

"Well", starts a short blonde girl, "I love how mysterious he is. I mean, he's the opera ghost, sends the mysterious notes and drops the chandelier! He's, like, dangerous but interesting at the same time!"
"In my opinion it's really interesting how there's two sides to him: on another side, he's this mysterious, seductive and sometimes even bloodthirsty being, really ghost-like. But on the other side he's just a human, and very unsure about himself. He's not very sociable, always alone", muses a boy with curly brown hair. "He has exaggerated the deformity thing, if you see what I mean - I believe he's the one who's most horrified of his face."

"Mysterious... Dangerous... Bloodthirsty... Unsure about himself... Unsociable..." mutters sir Andrew. "Thank you so much! Now, what do you think about Raoul?"
"I think he's not as sexy as The Phantom", giggles a red-haired girl with freckles.
"Well, yeah", says the blonde. "But I think he's quite nice. He's very charming, and most importantly, he's brave. He's ready to save Christine from The Phantom even if it means he'll kill him."
"It's cute how he's so in love with Christine", says a little dark-eyed girl in a quiet voice.

"Charming, brave, cutely in love", sir Andrew says while writing the adjectives into his notebook. "How about Christine, then?"
"I find it especially interesting how she projects something of her late father to The Phantom", the tall boy says before anyone else has the time to open their mouth. "And I think in the end she makes the right choice - after all, The Phantom is pretty much a madman."
"And in the end, Christine loves Raoul just as much as he loves her, I think", adds the blonde.
"Makes the right choice, in love, right. How about the side characters? Meg, for example?"
"She seems like a pretty simple, innocent girl. I guess Christine is her best friend and really important to her. But she's not a good singer!" the red-haired girl laughs.
"Innocent. Bad singer. Thank you so much for this, everybody! You've no idea how helpful you have been!"

When the fans leave the office, sir Andrew takes a look at the adjectives in his notebook.
"We need to find some opposites", he mutters. "Let's see... 'Dangerous', what's the opposite of that? Someone who tries to save people, I guess. 'Unsociable' is easy, the opposite is someone who is talkative and likes to have people around him. That also removes 'mysterious'..."
Sir Andrew makes a few notes and turns page.
"Well, Raoul then... 'Charming?' I think drunk people aren't charming, or wife beaters... So that's it for him. Christine... 'Makes the right choice?' Well, let's just assume her choice wasn't right after all. Meg? 'Innocent?' Hmm, how about a strip-tease artist, that's quite the opposite..."

After finishing with the notes sir Andrew takes a pile of printed fanfics from his drawer and tacks them on his noticeboard. Then he takes out three darts.
"Now, let's decide the rest of the plot", he mutters and throws the darts.
The first dart has pierced a fanfic where Meg loves the Phantom but he doesn't answer to her feelings. Another points at a story where Christine has a son with the Phantom. "These are so great", sir Andrew thinks. "How in the world I didn't think about this myself!"
The third dart has put a hole through a postcard from New York's Coney Island forgotten on the noticeboard.
"And we have the location", sir Andrew laughs. "This'll make a great show!"

In other words, I think Love Never Dies is like spitting in the face of the original's fans. It's like saying "I know what you liked about the original, and now I'm going to destroy all that!"
On top of that, the show is packed with plotholes, beginning from the time of the events. The original takes place in 1881 and the sequel in 1907 - or as Lloyd Webber put it, "roughly ten years after the end of the original."

The other thing I can't agree with or understand in Tossavainen's review is how he thinks this is Lloyd Webber's best musical.
I'm not an expert in his musicals, I haven't seen even a half of them. But Tossavainen's text makes me wonder if he's seen any... Out of the ones I've seen or heard I'd rank the original Phantom, Jesus Christ Superstar and even Cats higher than Love Never Dies.
I don't think Love Never Dies, as a score, is really bad. But I think it's mostly forgettable, and a lot more so than the other Lloyd Webber musicals I've seen. Till I Hear You Sing is beautiful, but in my opinion the title song, instead of being a tearjerker, is quite a letdown. Many of the other songs are boring and on the whole the show lacks the power and the feeling the first part has. I'd listen to the original rather than Love Never Dies, any day of the week.

I hear changes will be made to Love Never Dies. I hope they will improve the show.
And I hope Andrew Lloyd Webber decides to use his time and talent to create an original musical that respects the watchers instead of composing The Son of the Phantom of the Opera...


  1. I agree with so much of what you write here that I won't even begin to try mentioning each point.
    The scenes with Lloyd Webber and the fans and then his throwing darts at the fan fictions are brilliant!

  2. Absolutely loved this blog ! BRAVO
    ( so true ! )
    I'd love to hear your thoughts on the changes that have been made.

  3. Thanks so much! I'm really glad to hear that, you made my night! :)

    And if I'll ever find a list of the changes - I've never seen the show myself and I don't know if I'll have the chance anytime soon - who knows, maybe I might write about them!