London Theater Review – The Duds

This review aired on KBAQ October 21, 2010


London Palladium
London, England

Adelphi Theatre
London, England

Duchess Theatre
London, England

While most London theater is top notch, when shows fail, they are often real duds. On Monday, I discussed three London hits. Today I’ll look at three shows that don’t deliver.

Two are musicals scheduled for Broadway, “Sister Act,” based on the popular comedy film and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s dreadful “Phantom of the Opera” sequel, “Love Never Dies.” The play “The Secret of Sherlock Holmes” also fails to develop a promising premise. Of these shows two, “Sister Act” and “Sherlock Holmes” have already closed while “Love Never Dies” lumbers on because it cashes in on “Phantom.”

The leaden “Sister Act” is a miserable adaptation of the film that leaves audiences squirming. It’s scheduled for Broadway later this season. It will bring the upbeat score but the show’s book will be scrapped once a new author/adapter is selected. “Sister Act” takes forever to get going. Since the story about pop singer Deloris Van Cartier being hid in a Catholic Church is well known, the show’s setup needs to be tight and swift. Once Deloris’ work with the inhibited church choir explodes stimulating the Church’s popularity, the show finally engages the already bored audience. The other problem lies in Patina Miller’s lackluster performance that never catches fire as Deloris. Maybe a new book and better casting will help spark the Broadway version.

Why Lloyd Webber hoped to duplicate his “Phantom” phenomenon remains a mystery. He’s moved “Love Never Dies” to Coney Island where the Phantom continues to spread mayhem. His love, Christine, married Raoul, has a child, and is an opera star. She arrives in Coney Island for a concert and all hell breaks loose as the original characters are strangely regurgitated. Lloyd Webber’s score is a pale copy of his “Phantom” songs. The dull story is totally unbelievable, the cast is mediocre, as is the heavy-handed staging. The creative team has been dropped for Broadway production and it’s unknown when “Love Never Dies” will finally make it to New York.

“The Secret of Sherlock Holmes” promised new revelations about the crime solver but what the two character play reveals is pretty ho-hum. The sharp production had fine performances and expert stage direction was wasted on the mediocre and uninteresting play.

Occasionally, London theater attractions die so selectivity and knowledge of West End theater is a must if you plan a London trip that includes any theater.

After London, I headed to Paris, where I couldn’t see operas at either theater because all performances were sold out. I did see the popular Moulin Rouge show, a slick vaudeville extravaganza called “Feerie.” It’s not worth the high admission prices unless seeing the classic French can-can is crucial to your Paris trip. Order tickets for “Love Never Dies” online at “Sister Act” and “The Secret of Sherlock Holmes” have closed.