LOVE NEVER DIES Review, Providence RI, 12/31/2017

LOVE NEVER DIES, National Tour

6:30pm, December 31, 2017
Providence Performing Arts Center
Providence, RI

I can honestly say that I was not expecting much from this show. I mean, how could I be expecting any bit of quality, really? The show is a sequel to a musical I don’t care much for, and has had a very troubled path to premiering here in the United States, even with the pedigree behind it. I’ll be honest: I was expecting a total train wreck. What I got was a show that, really, wasn’t that bad!

This review has some spoilers, in the first paragraph after the jump.
If “not that bad” sounds like faint praise, that’s because it is. The plot of the show is, basically, a strange bit of fan fiction brought to life. Where else could the all mighty Phantom fake his death, move to Coney Island to join the circus, only to fall into a chance meeting with his beloved Christine, then convince her to sing one last song? Oh, and they had a kid together ten years ago, because of course they did.

When you get past the implausibility of the plot, the implications of certain plot points, and bizarre character developments from returning characters, the musical’s biggest trouble is that it is just boring. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score is lush and emotional, full of wonderful melodies and effective call backs to the original Phantom of the Opera score, but it is littered with ensemble numbers that serve little purpose beyond simply being giant ensemble numbers (reminiscent of the original’s “Masquerade”). The book does the musical no favors, either, grinding the momentum to a halt in several places, with redundant and unnecessary numbers in just the wrong places.

The cast on the tour, however, is absolutely top notch, making the performance an enjoyable one, regardless of the piece’s flaws. The show is anchored by a perfectly cast Gardar Thor Cortes as the Phantom, making his American debut. Cortes is effortlessly magnetic yet mysterious, dangerous without being campy, and sings the role like a dream. Similarly, Rachel Anne Moore, alternate Christine for the tour, is an absolute revelation, with a voice that absolutely soars through her 11 o’clock title song. The supporting players are also uniformly strong. The ensemble, however, suffers from a poor sound design, or perhaps an issue with PPAC itself: I could barely make out a single lyric from up in the balcony, making the ensemble numbers a trying experience.

While the bulk of this review certainly seems negative, I actually had a rather positive experience seeing the show. Perhaps it was the low bar I set going into the show, but I came out of the theatre impressed with what I saw. While it certainly is not a great show, or even a good show, it’s an entertaining enough night at the theater, full of tremendous performances and wonderful visuals. Depending on the ticket price, sometimes that’s all you need.

Love Never Dies next plays Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Boston and Chicago, before heading to the West Coast in March.

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