jump to navigation

“Love Never Dies” tour is glorious (Review) October 19, 2017

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Broadway Tour, musical theater, Musicals.
Tags: , , , , , ,
comments closed

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, is currently making its official US Tour debut in Detroit (it has already played upstate New York and Baltimore in previews, London, Australia, and other world cities) and it is a glorious affair, though your personal like will depend on your love for the characters from the original. While the musical stands alone, you need to have seen the original to understand why these characters capture you from the start to finish in this gorgeous musical.

Yes, that is Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber himself on stage at the Fisher Theatre last night, and yes I did take that photo with my iPhone.

Taking place ten years after the original, the Phantom, having fled Paris, has now set up shop at Coney Island where he is free to present his macabre Phantasma show and he has lured Christine to America under the guise of performing at Hammerstein’s new theatre. But a surprise lies in store. Also in Coney Island are ever-faithful Madame Giri and her daughter Meg, now a rising star at Phantasma. Along for the ride are down-on-his-luck Raoul and their 9 year old son (get it?). What plays out is high drama in opera buffa style, incorporating various musical styles of the era, a few rousing pop ballads, and at least two massively glorious numbers, the opening “Til I Hear You Sing” (which I suspect every musical fan knows by heart by now), and Christine’s title song “Love Never Dies”. There is also a spell-binding duet for the Phantom and Christine when first reunited – first in their hotel room, and then revolving to the hotel balcony – “Beneath a Moonless Sky/Once Upon Another Time” and later another for Raoul and the Phantom — “Why Does She Love Me/Devil Take the Hindmost.”  I give that example because this score is perfectly written – with its ever-building tension, building in classical musical motifs, and slight elements from the original Phantom of the Opera (to remind you this is a continuation of the story) and its very effective.

Its also a musical with a tremendous heart. If you don’t care about these characters, you won’t care about the tragic ending. I won’t tell you more except to say that not all of the main characters make it to the final moments of the story, and those that do will share emotional scars.

None of this would work were it not for the brilliant stagecraft and performances. The Australian production of the show has been basically imported here, including an almost identical design (scaled down a bit, but surely restored to its full glory when the show reaches NYC, the ultimate goal of this tour) from Australian designer Gabriela Tylesova whose sets and costumes are gorgeous, as is Nick Schlieper’s lighting design. Simon Phillips recreates his staging as director, as does choreographer Graeme Murphy AO, both from the Australian production.

But the night belongs to the singers — Meghan Picerno is a fantastic Christine, and she brings down the house several times with her singing here. She’s also a strong performer and you feel a connection to her early on, which is as it should be for dramatic effect later in the proceedings. Normally Gardar Thor Cortes plays the Phantom and I am returning next week to see him. Last night we had a spectacular performance from understudy Bronson Norris Murphy whose voice is fantastic and whom I understand performs this part quite regularly. A performance schedule has not been announced.  Also very strong are Karen Mason as Madame Giri (Love. Her.), Mary Michael Patterson as Meg, Sean Thompson as Raoul, and the rotating Gustave’s (last night Jake Heston Miller). Katrina Kemp, Richard Koons, and Stephen Petrovich round out the featured cast with their emcee-duties – and they are funny, athletic, and always watchable. There is also a 20 member ensemble and they are strong throughout.

There is no falling chandelier here, but there is a magical horseless carriage. There is no fiery scene in a cemetery, but there are plenty of surprises including a macabre and brilliant look at the darker side of Coney Island (“The Beauty Underneath”). And then there is a beautifully realized final scene on an oceanside pier that had gasps from the audience last night. And its a doozy.

Very Highest Recommendation.

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Glenn Slater. Book by Andrew Lloyd Webber & Ben Elton, with Glenn Slater and Frederick Forsyth. Orchestrations by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Musical Director Dale Rieling.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies continues at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit through October 29th. Ticketmaster, 800-982-2787, and Box Office. 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

“Phantom of the Opera” tour, Wharton Center East Lansing (review) May 22, 2010

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Entertainment, musical theater.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Phantom makes its final stop in Michigan (the tour is about to close after 18 years) at the Wharton Center in East Lansing, and it is everything you expect – no more, no less. Andrew Lloyd Webber forever changed the face of musical theater tours when he emphasized the production values so that audiences on the road would see the identical show as on Broadway – down to the sets and costumes. So far, the musical tour has grossed OVER 5 BILLION dollars, so it has all paid off.

Tim Martin Gleason and Trista Moldovan in Phantom of the Opera

The third road company at the Wharton Center is first rate. Tim Martin Gleason (as the Phantom) has basically spent his professional life doing the show (starting in Ensemble then Raoul on tour and the Vegas spectacular) and now The Phantom. He is very good. Trista Moldovan (in the performance I saw) makes a fine Christine Daae – her voice is lovely. (At some performances, Kelly Jeanne Grant performs the role).

But nobody really comes to see Phantom to review the performances. It’s about the sets, the costumes, the music, the lights, and that Chandelier. And it all looks magnificent (even if the chandelier looks completely out of place in ultra-modern Wharton Center if you are sitting anywhere but center orchestra). When the phantom steals Christine away and takes her to his watery underground lair for the first time, the thrill of the candlelit boatride through the fog is still one of musical theater’s most indelible images — this is pure stage magic for a few minutes, and it’s one of my all-time favorite stage moments (see photo above).

The production tours with 27 trucks, and over 100 cast, crew, orchestra, and front-of-house personnel. This isn’t the first time Phantom has been an East Lansing boxoffice dynamo — but it is, sadly, the last.

If you haven’t seen Phantom before — for heavens sake, get a ticket and go enjoy this musical theater standard. If you have seen it before, you can probably take or leave this production, given it is identical to the performance you saw (wherever it was that you saw it.) But for theater purists, it’s your last chance to see the show with its original sets, costumes, stage effects and whatnot before your local community theaters start massacring the show a few years from now. This is a musical you DONT want to see performed by your local amateur group.

Phantom takes a lovely final bow at the Wharton Center. Highly Recommended.

“The Boys in the Photograph” stirring new musical in Toronto October 4, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Theatre, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

The Boys in the Photograph, the reworking of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton’s The Beautiful Game, opened last weekend in Toronto at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. This is a stunning work of theatre not to be missed this season.

boys-photo2-wide

Where The Beautiful Game told the story in big-budget West End style, this is a pared-down, more intimate production. It explains the goings-on more clearly for those of us on this side of the Atlantic. Call this the “Belfast West Side Story” and you have a close approximation of what to expect — a politically/religiously charged romantic story, set amongst the dreams of soccer, with tragedy thrown in. There’s plenty of pop rock score to keep it all abuzz, and a few terrific ballads thrown in as well. There’s a well-choreoraphed Soccer game; star performances from the young leads, and something to think about on the way out the door. The very fine no-name all-Canadian cast is sure to jump-start some of the careers of these young folks, and set a few hearts aflutter (straight and gay) in the audience as well.

In particular, Erica Peck wrings every note of emotion out of the ballad “If This Is What We’re Fighting For.” It’s an instant theatre classic, and hers will be the rendition people remember, the way Betty Buckley’s “Memory” has been passed down in Musical Theatre history or Jennifer Holiday’s “I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” became Dreamgirls’ iconic moment.

Without giving too much away, I can tell you that the story plays out in the late 60’s and early 70’s in Belfast Northern Ireland, amidst the religious and political turmoil of the times. It speaks of love, and the things that keep us human, and the reality of dashed dreams. There are lively anthems and rock songs; and a very gritty love story. It’s about commitment to a cause, as well as those who just try to sit back and stay out of it.

The show is more similar in style to Webber’s Whistle Down the Wind than it is to his mega-musicals like Phantom. Playwright (and novelist and screenwriter) Ben Elton also directs this production – and he knows exactly what he wants from each actor in each scene, and he knows how to make it all play out in a style that keeps it true to its British roots, while making it more accessible to North American audiences. You don’t need to know much about the violence in Belfast before going in, and creative use of video and newsreels explains everything you need to know in between. But a few minutes into the show, you will feel as if you are in an intimate theatre in London, not one in modern day Toronto.

The Royal Alexandra Theatre itself is a jewel — now 102 years old, most of us will remember it as the longtime home of Mamma Mia! in Toronto.

On a final note, some curious changes were made between this production as The Beautiful Game as I saw it in London and The Boys in The Photograph in Toronto, including some musical changes and the dropping of at least one song that had become a standard. I am looking forward to the new cast recording of this production, because of the significant differences in the score. But the final product is a stirring, emotional, and lovely work of musical theatre. And its rare that modern musicals have a heart as big as this one. Very Highly Recommended.

The Boys in The Photograph continues at the Royal Alexandra Theatre until November 1st (unless it is extended, which it very well could be by the time you read this). Go to http://www.Mirvish.com  to buy  tickets.