Phantom Fans in Furore Over LOVE NEVER DIES

An Unexpected Editorial

by Kim Edwards

Our inbox has been loaded lately with various long-winded emails as part of a campaign to spam theatre reviewers. The emails contain protestations in violent objection to or in passionate support of the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber musical to open in Melbourne.

Love Never Dies purports to be a sequel to the wildly successful Phantom of the Opera, and its latest season has prompted an extraordinary turf war among fans of the latter and former.  

Both sides have apparently concluded it is important for reviewers to know Love Never Dies is respectively awful/awesome, while insisting we are, of course, to write impartial reviews as we see fit.

As we foresee that a further deluge of such emails may be inevitable, we felt it was important to voice an opinion on behalf on Theatre Press reviewers.

We are yet to attend Love Never Dies, or to offer either a review or opinion on it*.  Theatre Press reviewers are requested always to give honest feedback, offer constructive critique, and point out the subjectivity of their stance: this is simply one person’s opinion.  

While we might remark on the audience’s reaction or the wider reception of the production, we have no interest in reading unsolicited reviews from fans or foes of any show who, despite their best rhetorical efforts, are seeking to influence us.

Theatre is a fickle and troublesome industry. Sometimes wonderful shows close too early, while poor shows manage to drum up extensive audiences.   Sometimes excellent productions do not appeal to a local crowd, and weak productions strike an unexpected chord.

But sometimes critically acclaimed does translate into universal popularity, whereupon spectacular musicals achieve all the fame and success they deserve, and the unsuccessful ones fall quietly into obscurity.  

Interestingly of course, public protests over ‘bad’ shows usually end in the latter being far more successful than they might otherwise have been…

Ultimately, this is all irrelevant for theatre reviewers.   There is a place for all forms and levels of theatre, and producers, composers and artists have every right to create any new shows they like for the mingled delight and despair of theatre audiences.

Whatever strange motivations are behind the recent spat of love/hate fan emails to Theatre Press, the actual effect is to imply our critical integrity and credibility is in question because we need reminders to offer unbiased opinions.

As theatre critics however, we always wish to support the industry we love, rigorously deny censorship by attending as many and varied performances as we can as open-mindedly as we can, and then constantly do our best to express an honest opinion and make an effort to link the right audiences with the right shows.   Every time.

If you like Love Never Dies, enjoy seeing it.   If you don’t like it, enjoy avoiding it.   If you have an opinion on a show, share it – but respect the rights of others to disagree.   However, if you think the way to share this opinion is to spam review sites – please think again.

*Edit: Since writing the above, we have attended the show and offered an opinion. You can find the review here.

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