Friday, April 15, 2011

Twisted Every Way...What Answer Do I Give?

As most of you know, I'm off in London. I did see the revised version of Love Never Dies at the Wednesday matinee and oddly find myself in an difficult place. Since most of you wish to know what I thought, I will give you a quick overview.

It's been suggested on a Phantom forum, from deep in the cellars, that my change in attitude toward the show might be because I'm searching for more readers for my blog. Yes, it's a diabolical plot on my part to reel in more subscribers. (I can't believe some of the crap that comes my way.) Nevertheless, here are my thoughts.

Has my attitude changed? All I can say is that much has changed in the show in the way of lyrics, stage direction, choreography, portrayals, and cast. I have been trying to analyze my shock to it all and can only come to the conclusion I wasn't prepared to see the demise of some of my favorite portions of the show that I enjoyed in the original version. There is indeed new direction, new flavor, and new presentation. Will all that matter to you in the United States and elsewhere who are waiting to see the show the first time for yourself? My answer to that is no. You will have no former reference to go by, so your take will be fresh and untainted.

Unable to clear my brain from the shock of rewrites, staging, and new the cast, I think it's going to take me a while to warm up to the new Love Never Dies. This is really difficult for me to confess for many reasons. As most of you know, I've been supportive of Andrew Lloyd Webber's right to do a sequel, and I still am. I've been supportive, as well, of the cast, crew, and all the wonderful work put into the show. None of that has changed. I will see it one more time before leaving London on Monday night, and see how I react the second time around. I may warm up to it a little bit more, now that the initial shock is fading. Then again, I may retain my loyalties to the first version.

Below is a very short synopsis of changes that include some, but not all:
  • The beginning is much clear and better. It's not the painful start I once thought where I wanted the show to get on with it. Now, there is a clear cohesion from past to present taking it from the burning opera house to the Phantom's flee to Coney Island, etc.
  • The motivations for Christine's arrival in New York have changed. Hammerstein brings her rather than the Phantom luring her to hear her sing one more time. I'm not quite sure why they thought that change was necessary, but I have my suspicions it was to set up the Phantom's plot. Makes his motives look darker.
  • Other scenes at the beginning are deleted. One scene I really thought should not have been changed, was Meg's early on attempt to gain the Phantom's attention. I really did not like how they rewrote this part of the show. It dismissed a crucial motivational element regarding Meg's desperate need for approval.
  • Raoul's character is softened. Totally rewritten to what I think does credit to the show to make you feel much more empathetic toward his plight rather than judgmental of his failure. Thaxon and Millson are very different in presentation.
  • The first meeting of Christine and the Phantom has changed, and I'm trying to sort out what happened to the choreography that I so loved in the first version in Beneath the Moonless Sky. It's no longer there, which takes the scene to a different level. The passionate longing for each other and heated desire is changed to a more hands-on approach that borders from affectionate to threatening. Hard to explain. Will elaborate later.
  • The Phantom is more dark, menacing, etc. overall.
  • Devil take the hindmost is much more physical. Probably one of my favorite scenes still.
  • Bathing beauty is toned down. I found it interesting that the audience actually seemed to love that scene, at least when I was there. No more umbrellas over breasts to bring fright of wardrobe malfunctions.
  • Ending is different, though Christine still dies. The gun going off looks much more like an accident. The Phantom's response to her death is much more grieving. Raoul returns to Christine's body to mourn her death. Better ending, except they took away another touching part that saddened me.
All in all the show is basically the same, however, the flavor is different. Motivations are re-routed, staging direction altered, lyrics/lines added/deleted, etc. Ramin was on holiday, and Tam Mutu the alternate played Phantom when I saw the show. I thought he did quite well actually. His mannerisms are much like Ramin's, as well as his voice.

Thaxton plays an excellent Raoul. He's presence and demeanor on stage is different than Millson's, and part of what I'm trying to sort out is if that is due to rewrites or actor interpretation of the role. Nevertheless, you won't be disappointed in his performance.

When I first reviewed LND, I said on BlogTalkRadio that for this show to work, it needed to be casted correctly. Celia Graham, who plays Christine now, is very different from Sierra Boggess in many ways. I'm at a loss again over her performance as well, because I did not see in it the emotional chemistry or agonizing I saw in Sierra's performance. Whether that is from personal interpretation or stage direction, I cannot tell. I can only honestly say that I much preferred Sierra's original take on Christine when I first saw the show. The woman tore my heart out. I didn't feel the same way with Celia. I mean no disrespect to her as a performer, believe me. Her vocals were wonderful. It was a matter of perception on my part regarding interpretation of Christine's reactions. Again, I don't know if those are her choices or staging directions. Unfortunately, I will not be able to see how she reacts with Ramin.

I plan to do a show on BlogTalkRadio to talk more in depth about the changes and will let you know when we broadcast. During the show, I'll do a more one on one comparison between the old and the new and tell you why I liked or didn't like what they cut or revised.

Do I still like it? I'm sitting on a fence right now walking a thin line. I'm more inclined to embrace the original as a whole, than the revised at this point. Yet there parts of the revised, I wish they would have done in the original. I'm just not in total agreement with all the changes. I think some of the revisions, had they been in the original, would have made it much stronger to begin with.

However, I'll let you all make up your own thoughts if it ever comes westward. I've heard the Australian production may make even more changes. If that's true, than whatever I feel about the current state of affairs you can throw out the window.

It's been difficult to be so public with my thoughts on Love Never Dies from the inception. There are many people I hold dear on both sides of the camps, and being truthful can sometimes offend others. It's certainly not my intention to do so, because as most of you know too, I've been an avid preacher with my kumbaya messages of peace in the lair. I am, however, holding my same attitude that I will take from Love Never Dies what I like and enjoy, and continue to enjoy the memory of those scenes that touched me. Whether we embrace it or reject it, as I said before, our personal opinions should be respected and our love for Phantom the glue that holds us together.

Check back for broadcast dates for my updated report on the revised LND on BlogTalkRadio.

An honest post painfully penned,
Vicki aka The Phantom's Student


Sharon E. Cathcart said...

Interesting article, Vicki.

FWIW, I saw Celia Graham play Christine in POTO opposite the brilliant Earl Carpenter at Her Majesty's. She's got an incredible voice and acting chops ... I just wonder whether she's tiring of playing this same woman!

RoseOfTransylvania said...

Forget the garbage they throw to you, Vicki! Some people just... ugh. You have interesting blog and if someone gets their panties on the bunch in neither side, it just shows that ALW was not totally wrong with "sad culture" of SOME Phans.