Media, Multimedia

The Phantom of Coney Island: same angry guy, different fun house

By Branko Brkic 11 March 2010

A decade in the making, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom sequel “Love Never Dies”, opened this week in London to some decidedly unfriendly reviews. Later this year, it will transfer its “magic” to New York City.

This time around there is no heart-stopping chandelier crash, no underground gondola beneath the Paris Opera. Why? Well, because the Phantom has taken up residence in Coney Island, New York City’s venerable seaside amusement park. Really.

“The Phantom of the Opera” has been on stage on the West End, on Broadway and pretty much everywhere else since 1984. In the preceding 25 years it has been seen by more than 100 million people – and that doesn’t include the film version. You might have thought that after such career-defining, mega-success, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber would have let the Phantom retire to a well-deserved rest in some theatrical nirvana, but you would be wrong.

And the Phantom, in plotting his trans-Atlantic relocation, seems to have been sitting and sulking for years about his desire for still-greater glory. This time around, he’s back with a whole new shtick and a reconstituted body. But, if the early reviews are anything to go by, the poor old Phantom is also dragging a nearly inert show along behind him.

Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” came from Gaston Leroux’s century-old novel and it has generated a veritable tsunami of a phan-base since it opened – and stayed open – in London and on Broadway. And this fan base has been tweeting and emailing up an angry storm ever since Lloyd Webber announced the sequel, and that it would be reset in the New World, rather than in Paris. The torrent of criticism was washing over music reviewers even before anybody had seen a minute of the show or heard a snippet of the music.

WATCH: “Til’ I Hear You Sing” [Official Love Never Dies video]

The New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley, once he had seen it, joined the chorus of raspberries, writing: “This poor sap of a show feels as eager to be walloped as a clown in a carnival dunking booth … It never acknowledges that in a musical in which no one could exactly be described as animated, it might be a mistake to introduce your leading lady in the form of an automaton in her image. Or that it’s probably not a good idea to have your hero, in his first solo, sing ‘the moments creep, but I can’t bear to sleep’ to a melody that moves like a sloth in quicksand.”

Critics have been even less kind about the storyline. Brantley adds, “Its plot is so elaborate and implausible it makes the libretto of ‘Il Trovatore’ read like a first-grade primer. If you don’t know the first ‘Phantom’, you will be very confused; if you do know the first ‘Phantom’, you will also be very confused.” And if he were still around this probably wouldn’t make Giuseppe Verdi (Il Trovatore’s composer) very happy either.

Regardless, it seems almost certain the show will be a “must see” and tickets will be very, very hard to come by – if for no other reason than to see what all the fuss is about.

By J. Brooks Spector

For more, read the New York Times, Yahoo — or the show’s own website.


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