Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Phantom in Coney Island?

Back in 2001, my friend CF and I saw The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre in London. Certainly this show reigns as one of the best musicals ever produced. It is considered to be the longest-running show on Broadway and the second-longest-running show in London's West End theater district. When it opened in 1986, Andrew Lloyd-Webber was known already, but this show made Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman stars. Lloyd-Webber and Brightman were married for some time (no surprise that he's a major collector of Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian art; Brightman looks like she stepped out of a painting by Rossetti or Waterhouse). Some songs, such as "The Music of the Night" and "All I Ask of You," have become standards. If you haven't seen it, you should, because it is a masterpiece of musical theater. That said, I was a bit surprised to read in The New York Times that Lloyd-Webber is crafting Phantom: Love Never Dies, a sequel to the first. Do we really need a sequel? Why can't it stand alone on its own? Even more startling, he revealed in an interview in the London Times (which you can read here) that he's setting it in Coney Island. Yes, the amusement park area of Brooklyn. Apparently after escaping from the French mob, the Phantom escapes to New York and meets up with Christine ten years later. To quote Lloyd-Webber: "He started in one of the freak shows there but, by the time we meet him, being the Phantom he has become the most powerful operator in Coney. He's pulling the strings and running the island.” Why Coney Island? "It was the place. Even Freud went because it was so extraordinary. ... People who were freaks and oddities were drawn towards it because it was a place where they could be themselves." Of course, the irony of this is that Coney Island is now being transformed into high-rise condos and everything for which it has been historically known is disappearing. I don't know about you, but why do I feel like this has the makings of a disaster? It's unfortunate, but Lloyd-Webber's most recent musicals have all pretty much flopped. Still, he is a powerhouse in the musical theater industry, so if he wants to do this, he will. Undoubtedly, there will be many people who adore Phantom that they will wait in line for tickets for the sequel. I can only hope that he'll take advantage of Cirque du Soleil-like performances for the so-called "freaks and oddities" like the Tattooed Man, the Bearded Woman, and the Sword Swallower, because that will at least help craft an amazingly entertaining spectacle on stage. The show is scheduled to open late in 2009 in New York, London, and possibly China. I'll close by adding that I think the funniest part of this entire story is that at one point apparently Lloyd-Webber's cat Otto destroyed segments of the musical score for this when he pounced on his digital piano and deleted the files. I wonder if Otto knew something Lloyd-Webber didn't?

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