After first opening its tour debut back in 2010, the follow up to the overwhelming popular and generation defining ‘Phantom of the Opera’ musical, has finally hit the West Coast. It is no secret, that the music that gave ‘Phantom’ its heart, has been the opium of the masses for years as it has remained on and off Broadway. The anticipation that a second round of musical score would be performed by Christine and her angel has caused many theatre patrons significant angst.
How could they possibly make a follow up that could rival the original? After many significant rewrites and retooling of sets, we are getting to see the most up to date version as of yet.
Gardar Thor Cortes takes his turn as ‘The Phantom’ alongside an incredibly talented Meghan Picerno. The two of them do a more than adequate job of bringing two beloved characters to life again, yet even their best efforts may leave some wanting more. The cast and sets were beyond fantastic, but they were left with little to work with when it came to the storyline and overall score.
The first half of Act I takes a very slow, and increasingly monotone approach as it weaves its tale and begins to set the stage for the very twisted plot it is trying to unfold. The musical score takes a while to get going, and is only saved at times when a quick brush of the old melodies are interwoven into the air like a breath of fresh air. You are reminded of the hauntingly dark melodies that reached out and grabbed your soul as you were enamored with the first meeting of ‘The Phantom’ and Christine 10 years earlier in the original. When that fleetingly quick hit is gone, you are set back suddenly in this new set trying to find your bearings.
Yet, halfway through the first act, it begins to come to life. Jake Heston Miller, who plays Gustave, is a bright light that reignites your heart and reminds you of the beautiful music that has come to be expected. His first notes in Scene 5 shake the dust off and the musical finally kicks into gear.
It truly all builds up to the moment when we receive from Christine what we have truly come to hear. The great climax comes in Act II Scene 7 as we get a first hand reminder of why ‘The Phantom’ must have her sing just one last time. Meghan Picerno utterly nails it, and I truly had goose bumps as I listened.
As a lover of the original musical and score, I can legitimately say that that follow up was what most sequels end up to be; mere shadows of the first. However, your money would certainly be well spent to hear young Jake Heston Miller combine with Gardar Thor Cortes and Meghan Picerno to bring just a bit of that original magic back to the stage. Brava!
Love Never Dies will be playing until March 18, 2018 at San Jose Center for Performing Arts. To purchase tickets, visit their website at www.broadwaysanjose.com.