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A year after the long-awaited West End show failed to impress, and a four day closure last winter to "retool" still didn't get audiences flocking or appease the critics, a third incarnation of Love Never Dies gears itself up for the critics on the other side of the world.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to megahit The Phantom Of The Opera finally made its way to the stage last March to resounding cries of "oh" rather than "ooh!".   Years in the planning were undone by scathing reviews and muted ticket sales - thank goodness for advance presales from before the critics' maulings hit the newsstands.   The Times derided its "dimly implausible plot" and the Daily Mail called its opening scenes "stodgy" whilst suggesting the death scene was "so long it may only reignite the euthanasia debate".   The story was reworked when the show was taken off briefly in November but a reinterpretation of the musical's title song by ex Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger to help introduce the show to a younger, hipper audience has as yet remained unreleased.  The rewrites were seen as a step in the right direction for the show mockingly dubbed "Paint Never Dries" but many felt the show's staging and set pieces still lacked the wow factor that has helped shift so many Phantom Of The Opera tickets.

Mere weeks after the original poor reception to the show, plans were put in place to dramatically reinvent the show for the Australian production - the planned simultaneous Broadway show having been shelved indefinitely.  Is it a case, as US popstar JoJo said, of Too Little, Too Late?   Gabriela Tylesova hopes not.  The Czech-born, Australia-based designer was handpicked by the director of the Australian version, Simon Phillips, and has Lloyd Webber's full approval.   He felt that the show needed to be darker and more mysterious and more use should be made of the Coney Island backdrop, the popular American beach resort and theme park where the sequel is set.  "Basically it was a case of 'get Coney Island on stage' and that's what I've done" Tylesova revealed.  When Lloyd Webber saw the 3D mock up set design she had come up with he was speechless.  "I've never seen anything like it in the theatre before" he exclaimed.   "It is original, very European and brilliant."

Time will tell whether the latest changes to the show in Australia will help the UK version's theatre ticket sales in the long run.    Presumably if the Aussie show is a hit, the UK staging may be rethought once again to improve its chances of still going head to head in the future with proven West End hit shows such as Blood Brothers, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia and The Lion King.   Lloyd Webber's other recent big scale foray, Wizard Of Oz has also underperformed.    The Australian production of Love Never Dies officially opens at The Regent Theatre in Melbourne on May 28th.   We bet he'll be crossing both fingers and toes on the morning of the 29th…

[posted by James, 24/05/2011]

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