From Jan. 9 to 28, “Love Never Dies,” the sequel to the popular musical, “The Phantom of the Opera,” was put on at Playhouse Square, marking the first time the production has toured in America. A special note in the program by creator Andrew Lloyd Webber states he is “thrilled that Cleveland audiences will have the chance to continue the Phantom’s story.”
Since the production is a sequel, you might expect the show to invite you to the world of opera in 19th century Paris. However, in a bold and somewhat jarring move on Webber’s part, the story is set in 1907 Coney Island New York where the Phantom has fled and now runs a side show complete with human oddities—ironic considering the he himself had been put on display as a child for his facial deformity.
The show tries to remedy this shift in location and atmosphere using three new characters—the ringleaders of the side show—who tell the audience what to expect from the “miracle of miracles” that is Coney Island.
However, the addition of these characters takes the audience out of the action between the characters they already know. Also, since these characters have very little effect on the plot, the audience never connects with them or finds out anything personal about them.
Putting aside the strangeness that is the plot of the show—namely Christine Daae arriving with Raul and their child to Coney Island to perform with no idea she will encounter the Phantom—the performance given at Playhouse Square was beautiful.
Leading actors and opera veterans, Gardar Thor Cortes and Meghan Picerno, playing the Phantom and Christine, respectively, both had expressive voices and the chemistry needed to play the dramatic scenes such as the characters seeing each other for the first time in 10 years and reminiscing over their last shared night.
The real star vocalist was Mary Michael Patterson, the actress playing Meg Giry, Christine’s former best friend who brought the Phantom to America and is now the leading lady of the sideshow.
Her voice stopped the show during the fun “Bathing Beauty” and captured the audience’s attention during the heartwrenching “Please Miss Giry, I Want to Go Back,” the final number in which Meg’s depression and need for the Phantom’s approval culminates in an almost murder, almost suicide and actual murder.
The actors involved in this final number all did a fantastic job of honing the tragedy of the death that ends the play. As one family was ripped apart and a new family was pieced together, the actors all communicated well the intense effect this would have on their characters’ lives.
Although the plot and setting of “Love Never Dies” are similar to a fan-created fiction and not a professionally written musical, the production featured vocally talented actors who were able to draw the audience into the story.
Show: “Love Never Dies”
Theater: Cleveland Playhouse
Dates: Jan. 9-28