Child Star, The Phantom and Christine Daaé Shine at the Fox
It’s a thumbs up from us for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. We know not all the reviews are great ones, so here’s the disclaimer: if you can sit through a few songs that aren’t as brilliant as the legendary composer’s original songs which are mixed in at times within the score, there are three reasons Love Never Dies is indeed a must see: Christine Daaé (Meghan Picerno), The Phantom (Bronson Norris Murphy) and Gustave (Jake Heston Miller). That’s not to say the other cast members and ensemble are nothing special because the entire talent is truly exceptional, especially at making a mediocre plot a memorable one.
The reason the storyline is not the must see of the show is because you will likely walk out thinking “is this how I imagined The Phantom would be 10 years after the original show ended,” or “Do I still like Christine even after she makes some tough and unexpected decisions throughout the sequel?” But maybe that was the intention from Weber, who composed the music along with lyricist Glenn Slater and Ben Elton who did the book. It would give away the one best part of the plot to say which song Picerno belts out that might have some wondering could Sarah Brightman have sung the song so well. But if you are a fan of The Greatest Showman, and you were wowed as much as Hugh Jackman’s character was when he first heard “Jenny Lind” sing, then absolutely make arrangements to see Love Never Dies. Picerno’s talent during the second act is beyond noteworthy, as is that of Miller, a 12-year-old who sends chills through the audience with his “Angel of Music” sidebar in the first act alone.
And now on to The Phantom… from the opening song, it’s clear Murphy, who is premiering the role in the North American production, is perfect. He actually played Raoul in the Broadway production of the original musical. His range and passionate singing are spot on with the likes of Michael Crawford who brought the masked character to life many years ago in the original production. Okay honestly here, we’re gushing, and we get it that some might think the drama was more like an SNL skit at a few points. But the reality is with shows like Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen and Mean Girls taking center stage, the greater theater-going public just might not be accustomed to traditonal shows of the past anymore. That’s why we’re so glad this one is on tour, reminding us that when we willingly suspend our disbeliefs for two acts, it turns out a love story with heartwrenching twists is still one of the best escapes offered in the entertainment world. Speaking of, if you’re a true musical buff, you might recognize the title song, “Love Never Dies,” sounds very much like another one of Weber’s works, “Our Kind of Love” from the limited running show The Beautiful Game.
Love Never Dies is onstage at the Fabulous Fox Theatre through September 30. Tickets are available at the box office or through MetroTix.