Will the magic of the Phantom strike twice for Andrew Lloyd Webber?
The theater world was eagerly awaiting Tuesday's premiere in London of "Love Never Dies," the sequel to Lloyd Webber's global hit "Phantom of the Opera."
"Phantom" is a tale of gothic romance set in the Paris Opera that has been seen by 100 million people around the world since its 1986 premiere. It is still playing in London and New York, where it is the longest running show in Broadway history.
"Love Never Dies" picks up the story 10 years on, with disfigured genius the Phantom relocated to the bright lights of New York's Coney Island and still besotted with beautiful soprano Christine Daae.
Many "Phantom" fans have trashed the show in Internet reviews based on preview performances.
Some say the score has nothing to rival the earlier show's catchy, romantic ballads such as "The Music of the Night" and "All I Ask of You," and the set design has come in for criticism.
Widely read theater bloggers the West End Whingers dubbed the show "Paint Never Dries."
The professional critics will give their verdicts after Tuesday's opening night at London's Adelphi Theatre.
"Love Never Dies" has been in the works for years and carries high expectations.
Composer Lloyd Webber has been developing the show since 1997, working for a while with thriller writer Frederick Forsyth, then with comedian and novelist Ben Elton. The final product has lyrics by Glenn Slater, whose work includes "The Little Mermaid" and "Sister Act."
Director Jack O'Brien has acknowledged the stakes are high, saying he warned the cast that "no one's going to thank us for doing this."
He said Lloyd Webber - who has been recovering from prostate cancer while preparing for the London run - was brave to revisit his biggest success.
"This is kind of his 'Tempest,"' O'Brien said during rehearsals. "He's revisiting aspects of his youth, of his own journey. That's very touching to me. He's got a lot of money and a lot of prestige ... He doesn't have to, but he is compelled to."
"Love Never Dies" is scheduled to open on Broadway in November, and in Australia next year.
By Jill Lawless
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