What a way to spend Halloween night! On Tuesday I attended opening night of ‘Love Never Dies‘ at the DPAC. This latest production is a reboot of the 2010 sequel to the immensely popular ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ and just kicked off its North American Tour in Detroit last month. As it turned out, there was a little bit of a Halloween jinx at play on opening night. The show started later than usual (close to 9pm) due to some set delays. But that is the nature of live entertainment, it takes a heck of a lot of work to put on a top notch show and once I saw the intricate sets at play in this production, I can certainly understand the need to get it right before the curtain goes up.
Now on to the show itself. The story of boundless love continues in ‘Love Never Dies’. The year is 1907 and it is 10 years after the Phantom (played by Bronson Norris Murphy) disappeared from the Paris Opera House. The Phantom has escaped to a new life in New York, where he lives among the carnival rides and freak shows of Coney Island. In this new, electrically charged world, he has finally found a place for his music to soar, but he has never stopped yearning for his one true love and musical protégée, Christine Daaé (played by Meghan Oicerno).
Now one of the world’s finest sopranos, Christine accepts an invitation to travel from Paris to New York to perform at a renowned opera house. Christine’s marriage to Raoul (Sean Thompson) is suffering at the hands of his drinking and gambling and they desperately need the financial rewards that America can give them.
In a final bid to win back Christine’s love, the Phantom lures her, Raoul, and their young son Gustave (played by Jake Heston Miller), from Manhattan to the glittering and glorious world of Coney Island.
Going into the show I was prepared for a magical and poetic and even sometime melancholic score. And although there are indeed some hints of the original “Phantom” score intertwined into “Love Never Dies” I was pleased that there was no simple retread of the score and instead it is filled with new themes and interesting waltz rhythms that meld well with the carnival backdrop.
Bronson Norris Murphy did a commendable job as the Phantom and Meghan Picerno was wonderful as Christine. Her performance and strong Opera background added complete credibility to her character’s story about the success she found as a singer in Paris in the ten years since the Phantom disappeared. Little Gustave (played by Jake Heston Miller) brought a youthful energy to stage while demonstrating both strong acting chops and strong vocals alongside such older and accomplished singers.
In addition to the strong performances delivered, the sets for this production are simply dazzling. The lighting and costumes are particularly noteworthy. The set design by Gabriela Tylesova’s included a swirling rotating stage that worked so very well in many scenes creating a fluid movement of the action. I was particularly blown away by the carnival like atmosphere that was created each time a scene took place at the Phantasm on Coney Island and how many performers, colors, and movements were taking place at the same time. The choreography of it all was very complicated and executed perfectly.
Looking back now I found the first act a little confusing as the story tried to reset the relationships between the primary characters, but things really picked up steam in the second half of the show. There is an amazing duet between The Phantom and Raoul (“Devil Take the Hindmost”), in which the two men who face off over their love for Christine.
It is also in the second act that Meghan Picerno truly shines with a showstopping performance of title song “Love Never Dies”. During that performance Picerno takes center stage in a stunning lavender dress in front of a tremendous peacock-feathered backdrop highlighted with gorgeous lighting throughout the performance. It was mesmerizing and the highlight of the show for me.
If you were a fan of “Phantom”, or just a hopeless romantic you will want to see this continuation of one of the most famous stories about boundless love between two troubled souls.
“Love Never Dies” has performances at DPAC through Sunday, November 5th. For tickets visit https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/love-never-dies.