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

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Broadway Tour, musical theater, Musicals.
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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. 

 

 

 

 

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Legally Blonde, The Musical — Tour, Detroit October 20, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Detroit, Entertainment, Theatre.
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Legally Blonde, the musical, as any 13-year old girl knows, is the girl-power Broadway show that tells the tale of Elle Woods trip to Harvard Law School, initially to follow her ex-boyfriend, and ultimately to find success as a lawyer, find new love, and save the day for a former sorority sister accused of murder. I mention the 13-year old girls, because the Broadway Production was televised on MTV continuously for about three months last year, creating it’s own super-buzz and following. The tour now stops at the Fisher Theatre — and it’s good.

It’s easy to dismiss this entertaining musical — but sit in the theatre for a live presentation for a few hours and you will find yourself completely delighted by the show and its infectious energy and music.

ElleBecky Gulsvig as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, the Musical. Photo courtesy Broadway in Detroit.

Seen in a matinee performance filled with screaming 13-year old girls (continuing the nauseating trend started with Wicked and it’s screaming-fan audience after every song) Becky Gulsvig appears to be having the time of her life, and the energetic and talented cast exudes charisma. The screaming was there at the Palace Theatre too, by the way, when I saw the show in NYC. It’s a loud show — and not in an appropriate way: the kids talk during the show, eat candy, tear open bags of treats, and act like they are at a movie theatre. You will most likely fare better at an evening performance when the 13-year olds (and their 9 year old sisters) are at home in bed.

For those who have seen the Broadway production, there are a few minor set changes but the production is generally intact…but Jerry Mitchell’s highly energetic directing/choreography work well at the Fisher, and the show is really quite fun.

There isn’t much to think about on the way out the door, but it’s an entertaining piece of musical theatre that fares much better than a lot of movies-turned-into-musicals — and look out when this show is released for amateur production — every high school, college, and community theatre will be jumping on this one: a pop-rock score with enough roles for girls, and its guaranteed amateur theatre overkill. See it now with a professional cast and production values and it’s a show you can genuinely call charming. See it next year at your daughter’s high school and not so much.

Recommended, and better than you would think.