Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gossip, Chatter, and Speculation in Webber's Realm

This past week has really been a "chatter" week, as I call it, regarding Phantom, Love Never Dies, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.  On September 1, my mailbox was bombarded by Google alerts.  I have a few set up, and one is for any news on Love Never Dies.

Right off the hot "chatter" was that Love Never Dies is not coming to Broadway - at least not yet (it ain't over folks until the fat lady sings...if you know what I mean).  Tongues wagged that Webber was bypassing Broadway and opening in Australia and Toronto instead. 

For a few days the rumors, chatter, and speculation went wild.  The "con" crowd cheered  that it wasn't coming to Broadway in the spring, the "pro" crowd moaned its delay.  Since most of the news was hearsay, everyone waited for an official statement to come from the lair.  Finally, on September 10, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber was on the Michael Ball show.  The confirmation came from the composer himelf.  Love Never Dies is opening in Australia and Toronto.  I subsequently read that Melbourne, Australia is anxiously hoping to be picked for the show.  (You mean someone wants it to come to their city?)  In addition, two production teams are going to rework the play and bring the best to New York.

Then today Ramin tweeted (the man sings like a song bird anyway).  Here's his sweet tweet: "I guess it's safe to say that I'll be in LND London up until March..." and "Toronto and New York is for Love Never Dies. As it stands now."

Of course, everyone has an opinion about why RUG is making these moves.  Why the NY delay?  Why go to Toronto first?  Comments abound on all the pro and con boards.  Well, I have my own opinion about the move.  Whether it's right or wrong, it's my two cents, and you know how I love to throw my two cents around even if I get plummeted with rotten tomatoes in return.

I read last week that Broadway is in a slump.  Looks like they are having a pretty rotten time of it financially.  At the present, only one production out of 21 on Broadway (Wicked) met and exceeded its full Gross Gross Potential at more than 106 percent. The other 20 shows never made it to 100%.  Sales are down...down...down.   Even The Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic is only running 76.8%. Ouch!

The decision not to bring Love Never Dies probably has a lot to do about marketing savvy, while biding time to rework the kinks out of the highly criticized production more than anything else.  In fact, in that same week another article came out that the West End in London is actually exceeding in ticket sales. Frankly, I'm not surprised Love Never Dies is delaying it's arrival on Broadway right now. Why bring a show to the United States where sales are in a slump, protesters are ready to picket, and changes are yet to be made? Frankly, I think it was a smart decision on Webber's part. 

Instead, it's off to making two productions in Australia and Toronto. Perhaps in tweaking the show and possibly making it a hit in other venues worldwide first, Broadway might just open its arms and accept it more readily. Wouldn't that be a hoot!  Perhaps the critics will have mellowed out by time it arrives.  However, I doubt the protesters will be any less quiet, but there will be those fans who will continue to support Webber's creative right to do a sequel.  God, I wish I could be there opening night in Toronto!  (Note to self:  start saving.)

Of course, more news came out last week too that it's been reported that Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Really Useful Group are in talks to sell four of his London theatres (the New London, Palace, Cambridge and Her Majesty's).  A spokesman for The Really Use Group said that they were the ones who received "unsolicitied" offers, meaning RUG didn't go looking for a buyer, a potential buyer approached them.  I doubt it has anything to do with Love Never Dies bankrupting Webber, as some hope.

So that's the current gossip, chatter, and speculation in Webber's realm. I still carry great respect for the man and his achievements as an artist. Nothing will change my opinion in that area. He gave us The Phantom of the Opera on stage, that story everyone is obsessed over, which we have enjoyed since 1986. Whatever the outcome of taking Love Never Dies around the world and eventually bringing it to Broadway, I wish him well. Whatever decisions the Really Useful Group makes, I hope they are sound businesses choices.

Whenever I hear or read someone curse Webber and the LND production, I say a prayer for him and ask heaven to bless the dude and the cast of his show. Webber is an artist that deserves our respect, regardless of whether we agree or not with his latest Phantom release.  He is the musical genius who immortalized the musical genius.  Without him, we would have never heard the Music of the Night!  How sad indeed.

Vicki aka The Phantom's Student

UPDATE:  9/15/2010 - It was reported on Facebook Love Never Dies official page that the show has extended its run in London through March 2011.