Saturday, August 13, 2011

Love Never Dies - A Melbourne Attendee's Experience

A few months ago, I promised you a review from someone who has attended the Melbourne production of Love Never Dies. Below is a review from Anthony Grigsby, who kindly agreed to share his experience in seeing the show. Many of us cannot make it to Melbourne, including myself. His insight into his experience attending should give you an idea how it has affected one fan.

Even though I am quite familiar with the London version, the visual spectacle of the Melbourne production is exciting to say the least. It recently received three Helpmann awards for Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Lighting. The latest news is that Love Never Dies will be filmed in Melbourne on September 15th for international release, so many worldwide will be able to experience it via DVD and make up their own mind.

Below is Anthony's experience.

Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies have totally taken me to another time; they have made me fall in love. I first fell in love with the story of the Phantom when I came across the beautiful music that accompanies Phantom original London cast album. I listened to it countless times. Then I bought the original novel by Gaston Leroux. When the 2004 movie came out, I was hooked. When the Australian Production of Phantom came to Melbourne, I saw it there and followed it to Perth and Adelaide. Lastly, the many videos I've watched and the audio I've listened to of the many bootleg shows recorded around the world have kept me a diehard Phan.

Love Never Dies has kept the candle burning ever so brightly, not that the light had ever dimmed on Phantom, as it is the most successful piece of entertainment in all history. Many people have come out against the concept of a sequel to Phantom, but I for one will always be a supporter. This Melbourne/Australian production is a success, much to the dismay of many haters.

The buzz around the Regent Theatre is electric. I got here at 12:00pm today, because I hadn't bought a ticket online. I had heard about the Box Office specials that are not available online at, so I figured I would try my luck in person. After lining up, I scored a $45 ticket special (at a usual rate of $125, I think I did well.)

The Regent is packed today, plenty of wine, chatter, programs being sold and read, all these anxious/curious people are just waiting for the doors to open. I went to my seat, which was kind of to the side, but still it was only seven rows from the front so I am not complaining. I can admit I was a bundle of nerves, because I felt overwhelmed and emotional with The Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies had made me feel even more emotional.

Sitting there waiting for the show to start, for moments you look ahead at the set pieces in front of you that make up the setting of Coney Island. Listening to people beside me and behind me, you can tell that they are anxious and curious and not quite sure what to expect. This is my third performance, and I still feel emotional and happy and ready to surrender to the story again.

Suddenly, the lights . . . go . . . out. . .

Coney Island 1907

It begins with the lights . . . then the Aerie . . . already watching Ben Lewis in place as the Phantom, you see and feel his longing. He puts everything into his performance as the Phantom. He is such a professional actor.

Then he starts singing 'Til I Hear You Sing. He is just amazing when he sings. He has a deeper voice than Ramin Karimloo, but he makes the role his own. By the end of 'Til I Hear You Sing, you definitely know that he is still very much in love with his Christine.

The trio Doctor Gangle, Squelch and Miss Fleck begin the Coney Island Waltz along with an amazing ensemble of Freaks. At this point, you can be forgiven for not knowing where to look because the stage is full of light and color and all round talent and excitement. The set for Coney Island is comprised of a Roller Coaster set pieces, which also serve as a bridge for the performers, going up and down. It's an amazing use of the stage. The big Phantom mask appears on and off during the show.

As the story unfolds, we meet Sharon Millerchip, who has reprised her role of Meg as she played Meg in the original production of Phantom in Australia. She is very playful and talented, but you pick up very quickly that she just wants the Phantom's praise.

Then we meet Maria Mercedes, who plays Madame Giry as a no nonsense, single goal-orientated woman. What I find interesting is how Giry has gone from a protector of Christine to being very much against her. Meg although is excited at the prospect of seeing Christine again.

Then we meet our Christine, played by Anna O'Byrne, who is so beautiful, not only in her glowing appearance, but her voice as well which we don't hear until later. Simon Gleeson is brilliant as Raoul. He gives off a tone of control in everything he says and does, even though it becomes evident quickly that they have come to New York seeking fortune, because Raoul has become a drunk and has lost his fortune. I could hear people behind me saying, "she is beautiful."

Then we meet Gustave, who at this performance was played by Kurtis Papadinis. He is a talented boy, and you pick up quickly his curious nature, very much creating the family image.

So by this point, we have established that Christine is in New York to sing for Oscar Hammerstein. In an interesting deception, the trio who are played by Dean Vince, Paul Tabone and Emma Hawkins, help the Phantom's plan to deceive Christine and Raoul by appearing in a carriage, assuring them that they are taking them to Hammerstein when actually they are taking them to Coney Island.

At first, I didn't like how Raoul had become a drunk. You pick up the arrogance in him, Simon Gleeson does it so well. We hear Anna speak and sing at this point, she is just perfect as Christine. She was also an understudy for Christine in the Australian tour of Phantom a few years ago. She has great chemistry with the young actors who play her son Gustave. Being my third show, I've seen Trent Heath, Kurtis Papadinis, and Jack Lyall play the role of Gustave. She has a beautiful voice and shows genuine affection and plays a mother so well.

After she sings Look With Your Heart with Kurtis, we watch as Ben's Phantom and Anna's Christine reunite. Ben has such a presence. With Anna, you see the anger and hear it in Christine's reaction to seeing him again. What I love here though is that we find out the Phantom and Christine shared a night of passion together, so he has felt the joys of the flesh. This goes into Beneath a Moonless Sky and then into Once Upon Another Time. I found the chemistry between Ben and Anna here so natural. They make the story so real.

The Phantom threatens Christine that he will take Gustave away from her if she doesn't sing for him once more, and you can see that Christine is genuinely hurt by this. Then the Phantom disappears and leaves her with his music. It's here you see something happen, almost something sympathetic. She starts humming the music, and I think she realizes here it is about her, but that is just what I think. She walks to the balcony and the music is playing when Raoul reappears.

When Gustave meets the freaks and they take him to the Phantom's aerie, we see Ben really perform. He has strong vocal chords here. When he works it out that Gustave could be his son, you see and feel the genuine promise of him hoping Gustave will accept his deformity. Then when he confronts Christine, Anna and Ben share a real emotional moment. I was tearing up, feeling the agony he is feeling at finding out that he has a son after all this time and seeing what Ben puts into the Phantom's anguish.

Anna is comforting here in the fact that she promises to sing for him again, and then we watch as the Phantom proclaims that he will give everything to Gustave. Very deceptively, Maria who plays Giry reveals herself and her anger at finding this out. You feel for her, but you also don't in a way. I just take it as greed. I mean it is his son but then I see the argument there.

When Act 2 begins and we see Simon as Raoul drunk in a bar, it makes you pity him. Then you see Sharon as Meg, warning Raoul to leave. It's evident she doesn't want to be second fiddle. The Phantom and Raoul's duet here is gripping.

Then you see the conflict in Christine when she has to decide what she is going to do, to sing or not to sing. Anna puts so much into the title song Love Never Dies. The Phantom wins the bet here but it comes at such a cost. You hear the regret of Raoul. You see the desperation of Meg, and her depressive state turned to desperation. It becomes so much more emotional towards the moment she holds a gun to her own head then to the point she shoots Christine.

The shock, the pain, the hurt, you feel everything. The tears well up in your eyes. You are overcome with emotion and watch as Ben cries out and puts all his heart into his final scene with Anna. When Gustave goes to the Phantom, your heart just breaks knowing he has accepted him to be his father.

Many thanks to Anthony sharing how the experience of seeing Love Never Dies has touched him as an individual. Anthony has scored a ticket for the filming of Love Never Dies on September 15th, so he'll be back to see it again.

Thanks Anthony for sharing with us!

For those interested in a new fan site for Love Never Dies, please visit by Clicking Here