Despite being tipped for next month’s prodigious Olivier Award, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest interpretation of the Phantom of the Opera, ‘Love Never Dies’, starring Ramin Karimloo as The Phantom has, it seems, failed to win the unanimous approval of theatregoers and critics alike, with many influential voices deeming it ‘nowhere near as good as the one with the bloke who was Frank Spencer’ .
The problems, critics say, stem from the heavily reworked Act Two in which, traditionally, The Phantom spirits the object of his perverted lust “Christine” away to his secret underground lair and forces her into a wedding dress. In the new version, the two find themselves stuck for things to talk about, leading to a series of uncomfortable silences during which the audience can be heard coughing and shuffling their feet.
The “new” Christine, expertly played by Sierra Borgess , compounds the Phantom’s misery with her mardy-arsed attitude and her frequent demands that he take of his mask despite the Phantom’s repeated hints that he is no Brad Pitt, his heartache no more apparent than when Christine brutally rejects his request for her to ‘show him a bit of tit’.
As Webber’s inspired score rises to a crescendo, the Phantom beckons to the orchestra to silence the music. A sullen looking Karimloo then approaches the audience, decides “fuck this for a game of soldiers “, before exiting right.
During Act Three, a new addition to the classic format which critics insist makes the whole affair far too long, playing ‘hard to get’ seems to have worked wonders for the monstrously ugly ghoul, and the beautiful Christine makes several unsuccessful attempts to contact him on her mobile. The devious spectre has, however, set his to vibrate. Eventually though, and with her heart in turmoil, she confronts him, puts a plastic bag over his head, and leads him into the wings.
As the curtain rises for the final time, the public are treated to the spectacle of Borgess on all fours looking over her shoulder at Karimloo with the pair going at it hammer and tongs.
In this the final scene, which may have put the lid on his acting career, Karimloo gives a cheeky thumbs up to those lucky enough to be sitting in the front row and removes the bag to reveal his horribly disfigured ‘happy face'.