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London Comment: Phantom

The last thing you could ever accuse Andrew Lloyd Webber of being, is a quitter. No one who has a theatrical empire, a world class art collection and has smash hits like, "Evita", "Cats", "Jesus Christ Superstar" and the "Phantom of the Opera" under his belt is the kind of man who lets the grass grow under his feet. We're talking big bucks and big investment here. In the case of Andrew's latest show, just getting it onto the London stage has set him back, nine and a half million dollars. So when shows like "Jeeves", "Sunset Boulevard" and "Whistle Down The Wind" haven't been profitable, that's cash straight out of the Lloyd Webber bank account. Which may be why Andrew never lets a production die, without fighting to the last curtain call. And in the case of the sequel to "The Phantom of The Opera", the batle is raging right now in front of audiences in the West End of London. Creating a convincing storyline that took The Phantom, Christine and their son to Coney Island was an almost impossible trick to pull off, but Andrew came close to it with "Love Never Dies". But not close enough, hence the critical panning the show received and the unkind references made to it here in London as "Paint Never Dries". The audiences haven't exactly surged into the Adelphi Theatre in the way they did and still do for the original "Phantom", and the drip drip of disappointment has meant that tickets were available for as low as five bucks. But Andrew doesn't quit and when radical changes are needed, then he's the best surgeon around. He closed the show and got to work. Out went the director and in came the theatrical magician Bill Kenwright along with substantial script and music changes and now "Love Never Dies" is the show that should have opened in the first place. And before you think, well it's too late now, remember that when Phantom Of The Opera opened, I saw it on the first night starring Michael Crawford, and the reviews were distinctly lukewarm. Since its London opening, Phantom has gone on to make five and a half billion dollars at box offices worldwide. And don't be surprise if the new "Love Never Dies" goes on to perform the same trick for Andrew Lloyd Webber. Not only is he no quitter, he's a winner. This is Simon Bates for CBS News in London.
Simon Bates