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Paper Monitor

10:58 UK time, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Yesterday Paper Monitor concerned itself with the wildly divergent verdicts on A listers' red carpet gowns.

Today, it's all about the Phantom. Those who have been living under a rock for the past, oh, however long may not realise that Andrew Lloyd Webber, aided and abetted by Frederick Forsyth and Ben Elton, has devised a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. The most successful musical of all time. Well, they would, wouldn't they.

(Paper Monitor is most tickled that Lord Lloyd-Webber made a start on this some years ago, only for his score to be deleted when his cat sat on the keyboard, according to last week's Guardian. One can only assume the cat had seen We Will Rock You and realised drastic measures were needed.)

Anyway, the resulting sequel opens in London. Is it better to send a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the genre, or a critic guaranteed to hurl slings and arrows? Well, one tends to make for a more entertaining review.

It's "phabulous", enthuses the Independent's Paul Taylor, who grants it five enthusiastic stars. He is, as Paper Monitor has noted before, something of a musicals man. Which is nicely counter-intuitive for an ex-broadsheet.

The Times kicks it from the stalls to the circle to the cheap seats in the gods and back again. And gives it two somewhat equivocal stars.

"The title song has pretty clunky lyrics, insisting as it variously does that love is all, endures, never fails, remains, drives you to despair 'yet forces you to feel more joy than you can bear'; but it undeniably soars."

Want a night of soaring melodies, menace and psychological darkness? Best head down the road to where the original continues its mammoth West End run (other Phantoms are available).

The Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer likes it, and draws a parallel with The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

"There is something personal about Lloyd Webber's relationship with the Phantom, as if in the character of the tortured and deformed composer he is confronting something of his own inner darkness. The character might just be a terrifying self-portrait, hanging in the attic of his imagination."

But does he risk maddening fans - sorry, "Phans" - by dropping a spoiler into the mix. Click if you dare, fans. Sorry, "Phans".

Three stars from the Guardian - "a welter of great tunes in search of a strong story".

"But, as one of the lyrics reminds us, 'diamonds never sparkle bright unless they are set just right'. Although Lloyd Webber's score is full of gems, in the end a musical is only as good as its book. With a libretto to match the melodies, this might have been a stunner rather than simply a good night out."

And for the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts, it is "as slow to motor as a lawnmower at spring's first cut".

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