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The lesson of this week’s posting is that characters in a story need to behave in a manner that is logical to the audience, or we risk losing the audience’s interest.  I mention this up front because this post contains SPOILERS GALORE for those who have not seen LOVE NEVER DIES, the musical theater sequel to the phenomenally popular, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

If you don’t want the story of LOVE NEVER DIES spoiled for you, you need to stop reading this now as I propose to analyze the behavior of the characters.

Last weekend, I watched the Blu-ray release of LOVE NEVER DIES, a recording of a production staged in Australia.  I have seen Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at least 7 times on stage, and I loved the Blu-ray release of it a few months ago.  So, the idea of finally being able to see the sequel to that beloved story filled me with great anticipation.

When I left my home theater, my daughter could see from my face that something was wrong.  “Didn’t you like it?” she asked.

“Oh, it was okay.  The Phantom and Christine had a child together.”

“No, they didn’t!” came her explosive response.  And I realized at that moment what was wrong.  Eric and Christine “could” have a child, but there was absolutely nothing in the first play that set up this possibility.  It broke faith with the characters that we had come to know.

If you have not seen either show, let me draw a comparison.  Suppose Charles Dickens had written a sequel to one of his most famous stories, A CHRISTMAS CAROL.  In it, we discover that the reason the ill-tempered Mr. Scrooge felt such an immediate empathy for Tiny Tim was because, years before, he and Mrs. Cratchit had an affair and Tiny Tim was the result.  This explains why Scrooge was so insistent in Bob Cratchit being at work at his desk between certain hours under unhealthy working conditions.

Is it POSSIBLE that this could have happened?  Yes, of course. 

Would you BELIEVE it?  …Neither would I.

In THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Christine is terrified of Eric.  She has seen the victims of his murders, and has been the subject of his rage.  When she finally has enough and challenges him to declare whether or not he will take her by force, he replies:

“That Fate that condemns me to wallow in blood;
 Has also denied me the joys of the flesh.”

As has been pointed out to me, there is no evidence that Eric was a eunuch, so he could have produced a child with Christine.  However, emotionally, he could not.  Indeed, the mere touch of his idolized woman at the end, when she kisses him, changes the plans that he had for her and the man she loves.

Now, the story of LOVE NEVER DIES takes place 10-years after the events of the first story.  (The locale has also changed to Coney Island shortly after the turn of the century.)  We could argue that Eric and Christine had met sometime shortly after the events of the last story, but it defies the logic of the characters as we know them.

Characters shouldn’t remain static over a long period of time.  Characters that cannot grow and change are stereotypes and we lose interest in them.  Still, the changes need to make sense.

Christine still suffers from delusional behavior in the new show, although the delusions are different from those in the original.  She is not, however, demented…which she would need to be to suggest that her son go to live with his real father…the moody sociopath who occasionally flies into rages and kills people when things don’t go his way.  (Of course, in this new version, Eric is “better” now.)

Two other characters who make the transition are Madame Giry and her daughter, Meg.  Considering that the mother was accustomed to taking orders from The Phantom, and her daughter had a performer’s need to be seen and admired, their new incarnations make more sense…yet were still very uncomfortable for me.

Would Eric have taken them along with him from France to America?  That isn’t like the loner I had come to know.  (The details of that journey would have been fascinating.) 

Although Madame Giry took The Phantom’s orders, she was still frightened of him.  Certainly, a truce could be in place, but based on what?  And she loses her fear when she thinks that she and her daughter will lose The Phantom’s wealth she hopes to inherit.  I’ll let this one go, but it didn’t feel right.

Also causing discomfort was Meg’s performances.  I suppose it’s not too much of a stretch to go from a chorus girl in the ballet to a dance hall performer.  Again, I would like to know what compromises had been made between her, her mother, and Eric.

The character of Raoul is the most intriguing for me.  In THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, he is the romantic hero.  In LOVE NEVER DIES, he is the alcoholic gambler who has wasted the family fortune and envies the attention paid to his wife, Christine.

Now, Raoul is particularly interesting because he supports the validity of both stage musicals despite their discrepancies.  First, let’s take the “easy shot” against LOVE NEVER DIES.

In the original, Eric and Raoul are extremely jealous of the other’s love for Christine.  It reaches the point where Raoul would happily shoot Eric on site.  Eric has no love lost for Raoul either, ensnaring him with a hangman’s noose while he taunts him with the futility of his heroic plans.

Conversely, these two characters…admittedly a decade older…spend their time circling one another while muttering threats when they finally meet again.  Raoul may be broke, but that does not stop him from behaving irresponsibly while trying to save face.  The solution for the Raoul of ten-years ago was to spirit his bride-to-be away from danger.  The new Raoul enters into a wager with Eric.  Yes, Raoul has fallen low, but this is a remarkable change in an established behavior pattern.

Finally, at the beginning of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Raoul is seen as an old man in a wheelchair, buying remembrances from an auction and recalling the amazing events that had happened years before.  Because of his age, we know that this is occurring AFTER the events depicted in LOVE NEVER DIES.

Raoul certainly has money again at the opening of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.  He is onstage with a servant, and he is well dressed.  He is able to bid for items he wants, and he is known to others in a positive light.  (If he was a reprobate gambler, he would not be treated with courtesy by the Auctioneer.)  We can sense from his dialogue that things might not have ended happily ever after for Raoul and Christine.  (I had the impression that she had died, although this is never specified.)

Certainly, if the events of LOVE NEVER DIES interceded, then things didn’t go well for Raoul and Christine!  Yet, if that was the case, it is unlikely that he would be fondly remembering her.  He would certainly have felt betrayed by her, and people don’t usually recall fond times with those who have treated them in that way.

I said that Raoul also supports the changes in LOVE NEVER DIES…and he does.  Keep in mind that when he opens THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in the wheelchair as an old man, we are seeing the story through his memories.  In short, he could either be lying to us or his memory may be playing tricks on him.  He sees himself as the heroic young man, and it is possible that this was never the case.

LOVE NEVER DIES does not have a narrator, so we might be seeing the true, even more egotistical, Raoul.  Eric and Christine could have produced a child together.  Raoul would not have been able to emotionally accept this, so he has created a “safe” version of his undying love shared by Christine.

It actually works.

Oh, there are still plot holes.  (I especially groaned over Oscar Hammerstein’s interest in a reclusive opera singer to open his new musical theater in New York!)  But, a self-deluded Raoul supports the story of LOVE NEVER DIES.

Try watching LOVE NEVER DIES with the idea of a deluded Raoul from the first show.  Does it make this a better story for you?

Unfortunately, if this is the case, nothing in the new show explains this to the audience.  Without some kind of explanation, we are left with disbelief.  That disbelief causes us to doubt the characters and, ultimately, the story being told.

Thank you for reading!