The Phantom vanishes, leaving a single red rose. Christine Daaé runs off to sing duets forever with Raoul. So what happens next in the story of “The Phantom of the Opera,” one of the most beloved musicals in Broadway history?
The answer can be found in “Love Never Dies,” which runs Nov. 7-19 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale.
“Love Never Dies” is not based on any work from “Le Fantôme de l’Opéra” novelist Gaston Leroux, whose 1909 story ends much more decidedly than the musical adaptation did when it bowed in London in 1986 before opening two years later in New York. Creating the new show proved to be a daunting task.
“My first thought was this is crazy,” the show’s book and lyric writer Glenn Slater recalls. “There are very few sequels to musicals that have worked. All the more terrifying was, ‘How are you ever going to match up to that level of music?’ So I was very skeptical that a sequel of ‘Phantom’ would work.”
So were critics, who gave “Love Never Dies” lukewarm to blistering reviews when the musical opened in 2010 in London’s West End. The show closed for some major rewrites and then resumed its run. It was reworked again for an Australian tour in 2011 that fared much better with critics and audiences (a Melbourne performance was recorded and released on DVD and in U.S. cinemas in 2012). Word has it that the reboot was still being tinkered with at the beginning of this United States road tour by the show’s creator, Andrew Lloyd Webber (“Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita,” “Cats”).
“There were many steps,” Slater admits. “It was sort of a group imagination. Andrew wanted to continue the story with a little of [thriller novelist] Frederick Forsyth’s ‘The Phantom of Manhattan.’ But he couldn’t find the right musical tone … to bring that particular story to life.”
According to Slater, Webber got a better grasp of the show when Ben Elton, a standup comedian and television writer, was brought on to have a go at the book. Elton, who also wrote the book for Webber’s “The Beautiful Game” and the Queen jukebox musical “We Will Rock You” (which played Miami in 2013), decided to bring all the characters back from “The Phantom of the Opera.” From that detailed outline, Webber began creating the music in 2007.
“That’s the point where I came onboard,” Slater says from his New York home. “I began piecing that synopsis together into a two-act-play form. And bit by bit, as we workshopped, that piece became honed. I was responsible at that point for getting the various threads of the story to connect to a whole.”
In “Love Never Dies,” the action moves from Paris to New York 10 years after the Phantom disappeared in 1909 from an opera house after causing homicidal havoc because of his unrequited love of his musical protege, Christine Daaé. The Phantom is now hiding in plain sight among the freak shows and glittering entertainment of Coney Island, where he lures Daaé with the promise of performing in a renowned opera house. Hoping to mine the lucrative American market, Daaé arrives with Raoul and their young son, Gustave. The plot mixes in other key characters from the first show, but is revealed in a new, equally tragic, light.
“[Webber’s music] was some of the most astonishingly lush music I’ve ever heard in my life,” Slater says. “You hear that music, and as a lyricist you begin to salivate. This music is different. The rhythm is different.”
Slater says, “Coney Island at the turn of the century was not the Coney Island we know today. Right now, it’s a little bit run down. And a little seedy. And a little bit marginal. But back in those times it was the playground of the rich and the famous, as well as the lower classes. It was a place where everyone came. And it was a place where inhibitions were lower, and you could see things you could not see anywhere else in the world. In this small amount of space you had … a burlesque show next to … shows that were staging operas from Europe next to a battle re-creation with hundreds of people next to a sideshow. But a sideshow was nothing like what we think of a sideshow. They also had the latest technology, like a baby incubator. [Reading] firsthand accounts sparked this idea of what would the Phantom’s world be like? All if his baroque fantasies, anything that could pass through his dark mind could become reality. You lose track of what is real and what is imagined — seems unbelievable fertile territory for us to run around in.”
Slater often collaborates with Alan Menken, finding major success on Broadway as a lyricist for shows such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Sister Act” and “School of Rock.” Slater won a Grammy in 2012 for the song “I See The Light,” from the animated Walt Disney film “Tangled.” Slater and Menken re-teamed for a 2015-2016 musical comedy fantasy series on ABC titled “Galavant.”
Speaking of titles, Slater says that the creative team struggled to come up with a name for the new Phantom show.
“No one wanted to call it ‘Phantom Two,’ ” he says. “It’s not a sequel in a way. It’s a very different kind of story. The emotional underpinnings are very different. Andrew wanted to make sure that people who had seen the first one or who had not seen the first one could come in and see [‘Love Never Dies’] as a standalone piece. The song ‘Love Never Dies’ is sort of the underpinning of the entire evening. Also it is the song [Christine] sings at the high point of the show. It just felt right.”
“Love Never Dies” runs Nov. 7-19 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. matinee Saturdays and Wednesdays; 1 p.m. matinee Sundays; and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12. Tickets cost $30-$160. To order, call 954-462-0222 or go to BrowardCenter.org.