So, the West End incarnation of ‘Love Never Dies’ has announced its forthcoming closure. The perfect cue for the normally sensible Mark Shenton to throw his toys out of the pram (again) over the ‘Love Should Die’ website, which has supposedly had a hand in the commercial failure of this sequel to Phantom of the Opera.
Yet surely the wonder is not that the production has closed, but that it has run for so long. Last month, a report in the Daily Mail revealed that the show was losing money, with investors becoming impatient with the continued running of the show, whilst Lloyd Webber clung to the recently opened Melbourne production for some hope of yet another new ‘improved’ version. Meanwhile, the production was being subsidised by Lloyd Webber’s company the Really Useful Group. We have to ask at this point, to what extent has ‘Love Never Dies’ been a form of vanity theatre-making? How long would a completely independent theatre have allowed it to run?
Why should we care? Because a failing production which is being propped up by vanity is a missed opportunity for another better quality show (we’d have been happy with a longer run of Craig Revel-Horwood’s wonderful reworking of Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, for example).
It has been commented that one of the reasons that ‘Phantom of the Opera’ was such a great work was because of its apparent autobiographical elements, in particular his love for Sarah Brightman. The more you look at it, the more similarities you can find between Lloyd Webber and the Phantom. The Phantom likes to send letters ‘of a most amiable nature’ to those whom he seeks to control; so it would seem do the Really Useful Group. Lloyd Webber has often spoken of this desire to nurture the talent of young women; so does the Phantom. And the Phantom uses his position of power at ‘his’ Opera House to get his work put on. Sound familiar? Both have a little trouble letting go…..
Piers Morgan in his TV show wondered why Andrew Lloyd Webber, with the amount of talent and success he has had, has failed to become a National Treasure, a topic we have touched on ourselves. It shouldn’t surprise us: he just seems incapable of showing the humility and sense of connection with his audiences that would make him a bit more likeable. This is the man who despises some of his own fans because they inconveniently choose to prefer one of his works over another – we should remember that the ‘Love Should Die’ campaign was a reaction to Lloyd Webber’s arrogant attitude and the feeling that he took his fans for granted.
Nobody killed off this show. Even the famous ‘Paint Never Dries’ artwork from the West End Whingers became famous because it was endlessly circulated – they obviously struck a chord. And people seem to be getting tired of the endless excuses.
As for the Love Should Die website finally being shut down as Mark Shenton seems to assume will happen – we hope not. Of all the sources of information, this is the best place to try to find out what went wrong. Some may not like the opinions expressed, but it is still a very comprehensive record, with numerous external links and references, of this interesting period in Musical Theatre history. It is more important than ever that the website stays up as an archive, because this is a piece of history that we have no doubt Lloyd Webber will be wanting to re-write as quickly as possible.