The Phantom of Coney Island
2018-03-17, 10:11 p.m.
I went to go see Love Never Dies, the sequel to The Phantom Of The Opera.
I bet you might be thinking something like, "Uh, there's a sequel to Phantom? Why? And how come I somehow have never heard of this before?" I agree. So back when my mom was buying season tickets to this Broadway series, she was allowed to "skip" one show and we picked to skip that one. However, I got into Gumbo in January and therefore couldn't go to see Rent (which is fine, not my favorite anyway, music is good but characters are all pretentious assholes). Mom couldn't find anyone else who wanted to see Rent among her friends, so rather than lose the money, she swapped the tickets for "Love Never Dies."
Here is an approximate conversation I had with my boss the day before:
Here is an approximate conversation I had with my mom in the bathroom before the show:
Seriously, folks, it's about a creepy stalker/blackmailer/murderer guy. You're in love with that? No, it's that you love the music.
Anyway, for those who don't recall, there's kind of a happy ending because Christine, the object of the Phantom's love, is permitted to go off with her childhood friend/fiance Raoul. Did we need to wreck that? I think not.
Love Never Dies originally came out in 2010, and I am at least a mediocre theater nerd and had never heard of this. Apparently it never actually made it to Broadway,, which I think is saying something.
It takes place 10...ish? years after the original, though apparently this is a confusing timeline on the Internet according to Wikipedia. And yet it was being worked on from 1990. There is a quote on the Wikipedia page: "When Lloyd Webber approached the lyricist Glenn Slater to join the project, Slater's initial thought was that "it just sounded like a terrible idea." Oh, and at one point Lloyd Webber's KITTEN DESTROYED THE SCORE. Seriously?!
Here's the plot: Somehow Madame Giry and her daughter Meg have managed to smuggle the Phantom across the ocean without anyone noticing or flipping out (did they stash him in a box or what?). Somehow the Phantom, a guy who doesn't really seem able to do any work that isn't criminal--well, he writes great music but it doesn't seem like he's trying to make money off it--can somehow afford to buy himself an amusement park in Coney Island. How does the Phantom have all this money?
Clearly they called the show "Love Never Dies" (so generic) because it really should be called "The Phantom of Coney Island," except you can't say that without snickering.
You'd think the Phantom might enjoy hanging out at a (pardon me for saying it) freak show place where he can just roam around in public and be himself, but...I guess not? Anyway, he's still pining for Christine, just so you know! Not shocked to hear that!
I do think the show is kinda wonky on the music front. You won't remember any of the songs afterwards like you did the first time, and it goes back and forth between Phantom-type opera and well....silly dance hall numbers like "Bathing Beauty," in which Meg is perennially stripping into different bathing costumes. How are the mighty fallen from the Paris opera and ballet there. Anyway, Meg has learned that being the Phantom's favorite gets you a career advantage, so she's hoping to become his new favorite. Of course the Phantom does not give a shit, and meanwhile her mom has been pimping her out. Ugh. At one point Meg actually has to deliver the line "My career is going great!" At Coney Island?
So how's Christine doing? Not great, Bob! She still looks lovely and has a kid, Gustave, but Raoul has, as TV Tropes would say, taken a level in jerkass. He gambled all their money away and turned into a drunk asshole. They need the money, so when Christine is offered a singing gig by Hammerstein in New York, they go. However, somehow the Phantom arranges to have them picked up in a super freaky carriage (hints, anyone) and they're taken off to Coney Island, something that only Gustave is into.
Christine sings a song to Gustave about looking with your heart and not judging on appearances. Um...this is coming from you? Of course after everyone's left, the Phantom comes in and she faints. But I guess not in horrible terror... because yes, we're told that Christine voluntarily had sex with the Phantom before she got married, and then he ran off on her.
Waiiiiiiiiiiiit a minute. Now it's been a long time since I saw Phantom of the Opera, but from what I recall:
Anyway...Christine introduces the Phantom (who they still never call The Phantom, btw, it's either "him" or "Angel of Music" or "old friend" or "Mr. Y," now) to Gustave and they hang out and hit it off, especially since Gustave turns out to hear music in his head all the time like DEAR OLD DAD, YUP, THEY WENT THERE does. Oy. The Phantom spontaneously whips off his mask with no warning and naturally Gustave is shocked as fuck. Dude, give a kid some warning before you do that. This is reminding me of the time I saw my grandma with her wig off. You need to be prepared before you see that shit.
The only happy bit in the show is "Dear Old Friend," in which Christine and Meg and Madame Giry and Raoul reunite. Even then the number switches between happiness and uh...downright weirdness. This number also provides the only laugh in the show, in which Raoul is all, "You work for HIM?" and Madame Giry is all, "Now so do you!" (Though really, Christine does and Raoul ain't doing shit.)
Anyway...once the Phantom finds out he has a kid, Madame Giry is mad that she and her kid will be disinherited or something...I don't know why she's surprised since it's not like they even get to talk to him and at best he probably treats them like Kleenex. I doubt they're in his will or anything already.
In the second act, the Phantom pops up as a bartender to surprise Raoul and they have a stupid bet (I generally hate bet plots) about how if Christine bails on performing, the Phantom will pay off all of Raoul's debts and leave them alone--yeah right--and if she performs, Raoul will leave her. This is so dumb, Raoul. Like a performer's gonna flake and bail on a performance? When you need the money? Come onnnnnnnn.
Meg is getting annoyed that she can't get the Phantom's attention by stripping. Again, I don't know why you are surprised one bit at this, especially when Christine is around.
Christine sings "Love Never Dies," in the peacock dress with a peacock background. I cannot remember the song worth crap but I did love the outfit. Raoul goes waah and leaves her a note and leaves. The PHantom and Christine make out (ew), but that's ruined once they find out that Meg just ran off with Gustave...to the pier. And he doesn't swim. And she's got a gun.
Somehow the Phantom, of all people, is now tasked with being the voice of reason in trying to talk a woman with a gun down. Is this a good idea that's going to work? Heck no! When he steps in it and says something like, "We can't all be Christine!," Meg shoots Christine. SO THAT'S HOW THAT WENT. Mom was all, "the second you saw the gun you knew Christine was going to get shot." Now I wonder: how is custody of the kid gonna go?
I'm not critiquing the performances of anyone in the show or the production value because lord knows they knocked themselves out with the Coney Island stuff, Christine's peacock dress (that is cool), etc. But the plot is bad bad bad and the music doesn't save the show this time.
Despite my mom supposedly not liking Phantom too much, I guess she liked the production values at least because she seemed shocked that I did not love the show. Well...bad plot is bad plot, y'all.
During the inevitable Broadway Cares spiel at the end of the show, we found out that the actress playing Madame Giry has a sense of humor that is wasted on this show. They were offering a mirror Phantom mask ornament and the actress holding it dropped it and then "Giry" was all, "Or you can drop it and break it!" They also had "selfies with the Phantom!" and she pretended to fan herself/faint during this. I live in a world where "selfies with the Phantom" is a thing.