Directors: Brett Sullivan and Simon Philips
Writers: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ben Elton, Glenn Slater, Frederick Forsyth, Charles Hart (libretto revisions), and Gaston Leroux (characters)
Cast: Ben Lewis, Anna O’Byrne, Maria Mercedes, Simon Gleeson, Sharon Millerchip, and Jack Lyall
Rated: Not rated
Official movie site/trailer | Official Facebook | IMDb/trailer
I came into Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera, without having seen any adaptation of Phantom of the Opera, at least to my recollection. Needless to say I was very unsure about what I would think of the sequel, and the fact that it is a filmed version of the play made me even more unsure. I do enjoy going to the theater, but I’d usually rather be there than try to watch it on a small screen. To my surprise, I ended up enjoying Love Never Dies quite a bit.
The story follows Christine (Anna O’Byrne) as she makes her way to New York to perform at an opening opera house. Her arrival comes 10 years after the Phantom (Ben Lewis) escaped from Paris, leaving her to assume he was dead. Meanwhile the Phantom has been living in New York’s Coney island running a circus show called Phantasma. It’s no coincidence that Christine’s trip to New York brings her close to the Phantom. With her husband and son along for the trip, there is sure to be drama and a few surprises in store.
I’m fairly familiar with the story of The Phantom of the Opera, but not to a great extent. So coming into this film I had to catch up quickly based on the dialog (which is almost entirely singing – the subtitles assisted me greatly). I didn’t have too much of a problem getting up to speed and didn’t feel that my lack of knowledge of the original story kept me from enjoying this one, which was a great relief. I really did enjoy the dark, dramatic and tragic story. I got so involved in it, that often I forgot it was a musical. The acting and singing are simply superb, the cast really does bring the characters to life. I have to imagine that singing while acting is more of a challenge to be convincing, but this cast nailed it.
I kind of struggled with this review as at times I feel like I need to review the play itself, something I don’t do. However, the play is the true essence of the film, so I have no choice. The filming is at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, Australia which seems to be a very spectacular venue. The extravagant sets really bring the play to life. Granted, the film version has the advantage of cuts and closeups, but I still felt as if the set was very well put together and seemed to flow smoothly. The costumes and props are just as impressive. I have no idea how they pulled off some of the scenes, especially the Phantasma ones, as they were exciting and intricate.
The Universal Blu-ray, the version of which I watched, makes the film version an experience all of its own. If one is hesitant about this being a filmed play, they would be relieved with this particular release. Here you have the benefit of seeing what you may not normally see in the theater. The close-ups, different angles and transitions allow the viewer to see numerous details and perspectives they otherwise would not. Additionally, you have the benefit of high definition sound and picture to fully enhance the experience (again with the Phantasma scenes, the colors really pop-off of the screen). While nothing compares to seeing a live show, I have to say this Blu-ray does a great job of mixing the best of both worlds.
Love Never Dies was a big surprise for me. I do enjoy going to the theatre when I can, but the thought of a filmed play doesn’t typically excite me. With Love Never Dies, not only was the play a well-written, acted, and designed performance, but it translated well into the film medium. A lot of the success of the film rendition is due in part by the wise camera work and editing and of course the benefits of seeing it in hi-def. I would assume any fan of the Phantom would appreciate this production, and if you were unable to see the actual performance, this is just about as good as it gets without being there in person.