So, Mark Shenton, in his blog in The Stage, has reignited the discussion around ‘Love Never Dies’, and in particular the ‘Love Should Die’ campaign. We are very grateful to Mark for making us aware of this campaigning website, which raised all sorts of questions for us about free speech and fair play in the theatre industry.
Andrew Lloyd Webber seems to have a massive sense of entitlement when it comes to his work. The latest TV casting show ‘Over the Rainbow’ nearly didn’t happen because Andrew Lloyd Webber didn’t want to refrain from mentioning ‘Love Never Dies’ on the show – he simply couldn’t see why he should.
Nobody can blame him for taking criticism personally, but what is noticeable here is that he doesn’t seem hurt by it, just irritated. We have already commented on Lloyd Webber’s propensity for these kinds of comments in our post about drama schools, but here is it again in the Times. His annoyance that ordinary people might have a voice without being ‘qualified’ is palpable – pretty rich for a composer who has been dabbling in TV judging, casting, production, and theatre ownership without any apparent qualifications for the job. He states that “What we really have to consider is all this stuff on the net….It’s a very worrying situation for anybody now who’s opening any kind of play or musical.” Well, we are not aware of any other producer being on the receiving end of a campaign on this scale.
It seems to us that for the most part the “Love Should Die” website is only doing what Lloyd Webber does – the difference is that ordinary people are not expected to answer back. We are told that the ‘Love Should Die’ website grew up out of irritation at the constant mantra from Lloyd Webber that the ‘phans’ were dying to see a sequel. Presumably he had no evidence to support that – hence the development of a facebook group to counter that view.
The ‘Love Should Die’ website has collected together all the negative reviews of the production. The ‘Love Never Dies’ website has all the positive ones. All three of them. And interestingly, the ‘Mail on Sunday’ review, which is quoted on posters, is not present. Andrew Lloyd Webber is very lucky that ‘The Independent’ gave the production five stars, because this review does not read to us like a description of a five star production. To return to our favourite topic of critics quotes, we found this comment from Ian Shuttleworth on another Mark Shenton post mentioning selective quotation of critics in publicity material. He says,
“I’ve recently received an inquiry from parties related to the production asking whether the words in my FT review “a score that is determinedly, persistently soaring and majestic” can be changed in advertising to “a majestic and soaring score” or “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s majestic and soaring score”. It’s a discreet change compared to some, of course, but it does seem to me to shift the tone of the words fundamentally… Especially given that the entire sentence of my original review read “As for the meat of the show, I cannot recall ever finding such a yawning chasm between a score which is so determinedly, persistently soaring and majestic (although a number of arrangements sound cheaply over-synthesised beyond the necessities of fairground pastiche) and lyrics that seldom even rise to banality.”
The ‘Love Should Die’ website exhorts its visitors to post any negative comments and experiences on the messageboard. ‘Love Never Dies’, in a personal message from Andrew, does the same. [update 2.9.11 – this link is now broken – the UK site now redirects to the Australian production’s website] ‘Love Never Dies’ has merchandise and a natty little games section where you can pretend you’re in Coney Island. ‘Love Should Die’ has merchandise, the ‘free rice’ game, and a series of mock letters from the Phantom explaining to Lloyd Webber why he should cease the project at once.
Has the ‘Love Should Die’ campaign really affected this show? Or is it just a repository for the reasons why the show is a critical failure? The website and the discussion of it will have given the show some free publicity, and even if some theatregoers make an alternative choice, Lloyd Webber may well still benefit, if that choice is a show in one of his other theatres. Lloyd Webber can’t seem to decide whether to complain about the effect, or to keep insisting that it’s had no effect and that the show is a success. He talks of journalists being ‘duped’ – into what? No journalist is going to criticise a show just because someone tells them to, and many reviews mention having received emails from ‘Love Should Die’ before giving their own opinion.
As for us, we haven’t seen the show. Without the assistance of ‘Love Should Die’ we came to the conclusion that we wouldn’t go, for the following reasons:
1) The title song is lifted, note for note, from another Lloyd Webber song, ‘Our Kind of Love’ from ‘The Beautiful Game’. Here is Hannah Waddingham singing the ‘original’. We say original, but we subsequently found out that there is another version before that, ‘The Heart is Slow to Learn’. What a cheek! Perhaps Lloyd Webber assumed we wouldn’t mind as ‘The Beautiful Game’ was a commercial flop.
2) The plot is preposterous and tawdry. The film of the original paved the way for the new ‘sexy’ phantom by casting ‘non singer’ Gerard Butler and going on about his sexy ‘rock and roll’ voice and how good he looked on screen. The deformity was also massively downplayed in the film. And we notice that in Ramin Karimloo’s promo video, there is no deformity at all!
Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking?
Update 15.4.12: Earlier this year Rebecca Saffir wrote a review of the Sydney production of ‘Love Never Dies’ for Time Out. It was not exacly complimentary about the material, although it did praise the production. Then she tweeted a link to the review. We were rather perplexed at the time to find that on clicking the link a few days later, the page had been strangely ‘updated’ with a rather sycophantic interview with Lloyd Webber. Removing old reviews is not the normal practice at www.timeout.com. Surely, we thought, there wasn’t some kind of censorship going on here? Then we put it out of our minds. Well, according to Rebecca, Really Useful Group were behind the removal of her review, and she tells her side of the story here.
Until she posted it on her blog recently, there was only one place you could find it – yes, the Love Should Die website. No wonder Lloyd Webber hates them so much.