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Thoughts on Les Miz trailer

1) Personally, I LOVE Anne Hathaway’s version of “I Dreamed A Dream.”—at least the first, you know, minute we heard of it. I think the understated and intensely sad take on it works well. 

2) The film itself looks beautiful. Love the scenery and costumes. 

3) I’m excited to hear the men sing!

4) The person I’m most worried about? Amanda S. singing Cosette. Cosette is a honest-to-God soprano. I know she has to sing a B-5 in “Heart Full of Love”, and maybe, possibly, has a C-5 in Act II. I am not thinking Amanda has the chops to sing this. This is where I think they should have gotten a bonafide soprano like Emmy Rossum. But we’ll have to see…

5) Sasha Baron Cohen? He can sing? This is news to me. 

30 Important Books: No.4, Little House in the Big Woods

I think every girl in America reads these at some point. And I was no exception. This was the first “chapter book” I read, the year I was in first grade. We were divided into reading groups, and the group I was in got to read chapter books of our choice. (But not really our choice: we got to choose one out of a group of five.) I chose Little House, and was smitten. I remember reading it on the bus going to and from school, and quickly read the rest of the series in succession. (Even On the Way Home, which I totally didn’t get in second grade.) Laura was about my age in the first book, and how I wanted to make syrup candy on the snow, or go to a sugaring dancing, or play with a pig’s bladder balloon! Or watch my dad clean his rifle! And I loved the stories of Christmas and the illustration of the well stocked storage pantry. Churning butter sounded delightful.

This planted the seeds of historical fiction love, which lead, in turn, to the American Girl books and dolls and all of that. Laura had a gift for making ordinary life come alive (who isn’t starving after reading Farmer Boy? That whole book reads like a menu!) with precision and detail. And even though I had yellow hair like Mary, I was much more like Laura. Sitting still wasn’t my thing, either. 🙂

Love Never Dies: Australian Production Numbers

FYI: (I’m basing this on the DVD of the AU production, as well as original song and scene breakdowns)

ACT I

Prologue: The Aerie/’Till I Hear You Sing…..The Phantom

Overture: Coney Island Waltz

SCENE I: Heaven By the Sea/Only For You…..Squelch, Fleck, Gangle, Meg, ensemble

SCENE II: Christine disembarks…..Christine, Raoul, Gustave, Squelch, Fleck, Gangle, 

     ensemble, Phantom

SCENE III: What a dreadful town!…..Raoul, Christine, Gustave

      Look With Your Heart…..Christine and Gustave

      Beneath a Moonless Sky…..Christine, Phantom

      Once Upon Another Time….Christine, Phantom

SCENE IV: Dear Old Friends!…..Christine, Meg, Giry, Raoul

SCENE V: The Beauty Underneath…..Phantom, Squelch, Gangle, Fleck, Gustave

     The Phantom Confronts Christine…..Christine, Phantom


ACT II


Scene I: Why Does She Love Me?…..Raoul

     Devil Take The Hindmost…..Raoul, Phantom

Scene II: Bathing Beauty…..Meg, ensemble

Scene III: Christine’s dressing room…..Christine, Gustave, Raoul, Phantom

Scene IV: Before the Performance/ Devil Take the Hindmost Quartet…Meg, Giry, Phantom,

     Raoul, Gustave

Scene V: Love Never Dies…..Christine

Scene VI: Ah, Christine!/ Raoul’s letter…..Phantom, Christine, Raoul

     Gustave! Gustave!……Phantom, Christine, Giry, Squelch, Fleck, Gangle

Scene VII: At the Pier…Meg, Christine, Phantom, Gustave, Giry

(this includes: Meg: Bathing Beauty reprise; Christine: Look With Your Heart reprise; Christine/Phantom: Once Upon Another Time reprise; Phantom: Love Never Dies reprise, as well as other melody reprises)

Theater review: Love Never Dies (Australian production)

Yes, there is a sequel to Phantom of the Opera.

Yes, people are heavily divided about it. And yeah, it didn’t do so well in London. 

But the Australian production, which was released today in the US on Blu Ray and DVD, has made some huge leaps forward from the London OP. However, it’s still lacking in some major areas. 

The plot: 10 years later. Phantom’s in Coney Island, NY, running a freak show/vaudeville act. He lures Christine, Raoul, and their son, Gustave, over to NYC from Paris to sing as part of his act. Except Christine doesn’t know he’s the one behind it. They think Oscar Hammerstein wants them to sing. Things get…complicated. Meg and Mme. Giry also make return appearances. 

(The rest is for people who have seen the show and/or don’t mind spoilers. MASSIVE spoilers ahead.)

So, let’s break it down: 

*Thank God for the return of Charles Hart! One of the original POTO lyricists, he came back mid-way through the London run to change and tighten the lyrics. Glenn Slater does a decent job, but Charles Hart can write romance like nobody’s business. That alone makes the show 1000 times better. (I’ll have some more examples up later)

*Meg’s number at the beginning, “Only For Him (Only for You)” is deleted and given to Squelch, Gangle, and Fleck. This works a lot better, and Hart’s lyrics are superb. It emphasizes the creepiness of Phantasma, which is much more in line with the original Phantom idea.

  • Also, the scenes between Giry, Meg and the Phantom are mostly deleted, helping with the pacing. 

*The ensemble pieces are essentially eliminated: No more “Heaven by the Sea” and its’ reprises. This is good and helps the pacing. The ensemble is basic bit characters, and it’s much better.

*MASSIVE character changes in Raoul, Meg, and the Phantom.

  • One of the main complaints in the original was that the Phantom was too nice and the original menace was completely gone. That’s changed here. (See the scene after “Once Upon Another Time”). 
  • Raoul is much less of an over the top drunken boor, but this makes Christine’s decision in Act II a lot harder. Raoul also shows interest in Gustave as opposed to totally ignoring him. 
  • Meg is actually given character development! When she first hears that Christine is coming to New York, she’s excited to see her old friend. But slowly, her attitude changes (helped, of course, by her mother). But right until the end, she wants to believe that everything will work out for the best, and that everyone means well. It’s not, Wow, Meg has become such a )_#_#%^! in 10 years! It’s much more sudden, almost like a psychotic break, when she takes Gustave. 

*Christine changes a bit, too. Hart’s changes in the set up to “Beneath a Moonless Sky” are great changes. She’s mad. This man almost killed Raoul and enslaved her. She’s not happy to have been duped, and she’s furious that now he wants her back, when she was prepared to leave Raoul and go with him back in Paris. Anger suits her.

*The singing is gorgeous. Anna O’Byrne’s voice is like cream (man, those b-flats in the title song! Perfection!). Ben Lewis also does a bang up job as the Phantom (I think he does a better job that Ramin Karimloo, who originated the role in London, but it’s hard to completely compare, since there have been so many changes). Simon Gleeson is also an excellent Raoul, especially in “Why Does She Love Me?” and in the dressing room sequence. I always feel so bad for him at the end of this show. 

*There is more POTO music. When Christine’s boat arrives at the New York City docks, the Phantom sings a snippet of “The mirror” (“I am your angel of music…”) from a catwalk. There are also echoes in the lines: “Things have changed, Raoul” is added, after Raoul comes back from the hotel bar, and the Phantom has extracted the promise of performance from Christine. 

*The set is gorgeous. I mean, whoa. I’m a bit sad the automaton Christine is gone. 

However (you knew that was coming): the second act still doesn’t really work. The first act is so much tighter, and ends well. The second act begins with Raoul in the bar, then Meg’s appearance (where she insinuates that something’s going on with Christine and the Phantom—as if Raoul didn’t know that), “Devil Take the Hindmost”, “Bathing Beauty”, “Before the Performance”, “Twisted Ev’ry Way”, “Backstage/Devil Take…(reprise)”, “Love Never Dies”, “Ah! Christine”, and the pier sequence. It’s FAST. ( I give O’Byrne MASSIVE credit for the great acting she does in “Love Never Dies”.) But wow, we get to the pier awfully fast. Meg has her breakdown, takes Gustave, and there we are. That being said, her “I took a little trip to Coney Island” works a lot better here, since we don’t know all the things she did, and how deeply she’s been used and hurt. It makes sense that she’s raw and that this was IT for her. 

That being said…I don’t know how else to end it. I mean, the Phantom doesn’t lend himself to happy endings. But I still think the accidental shooting of Christine is random. Plus, she’s shot in the stomach. If they’d apply pressure, instead of gesticulating, she should’ve been able to hold on while Mme. Giry, Meg, and Gustave ran to get help from the enormous crowd that they just came through. This is one thing that works on CD, but not in performance. I mean, come on. (Yes, I realize this is done a lot in theater and opera. That doesn’t mean it’s good!) Sir, take off your coat and put it over her wound, silly man!

ONE good thing at he ending: giving the Phantom and Gustave a scene together, where the Phantom does a reprise of “Love Never Dies”, Gustave removes the mask and touches his father’s face. That’s good, and somewhat hopeful. 

In a way, this second act is the opposite of the second act of another of his shows, The Woman In White (GORGEOUS music, oh my gosh). SO MUCH is crammed into that second act. You get a murder plot, a murder, a burial, discovery of said murder plot, uncovering the real murderers, finding out the woman we thought was dead wasn’t dead, freeing her from an asylum, racing back to the ancestral home, coing up with a Brilliant Plan to Catch The Loathsome Criminal, CATCHING said lonesome criminal, people reuniting, love found, etc. Love Never Dies has too little in the second act, almost. You feel like it’s rushed, but there’s so little to rush. 

Like I said, I don’t know what I’d change, but it just feels…off. The acting is great, the score is beautiful, the new lyrics and changed scenes are a lot better, dramatically. And yet there is something about that last scene that rings untrue to me. Maybe I just don’t like the fact that Christine dies. She’s been through so much, and then to have it all end that way is highly unsatisfying for me. I know she has to die here—or before 1912—for the prologue to Phantom to work. But man, couldn’t she have died of influenza or something?