Pitching the Mouse II: Love Never Dies
By Kryss LaBryn
A/N: Now, I never intended the first "Pitching The Mouse" to be anything but a silly little one-shot, sharing my initial impression, when I first heard that the sequel was to be called "Once Upon Another Time," that it sounded like something Disney would come up with. Even when they changed the name to "Love Never Dies," and the inevitable jokes about James Bond kicked in (not to mention those of us pointing out that that was the tag line for Bram Stoker's Dracula back in what, 1992?), inspiration didn't strike.
In fact, it wasn't until they released the footage of the preview show they did in England just a little bit ago (you can find it on YouTube easily enough; it's under the show's official channel), where they gathered up around a hundred phans or so to unveil one of the songs from the show, with the new Phantom and Christine (and incidentally, apparently only managed to get usefully-enthusiastic reaction footage from around eight of those 100+ phans), that the muse struck.
Because, frankly, Ramin is good. He sings really well (as he ought to, having been the Phantom for the condensed Vegas version for quite some time), I'll certainly give him that. If they had cast him instead of Gerard in the first movie, a lot more slack would have been cut, I think (not that I don't like GB; I do, I really do; I just don't think he was the right choice to play the lead in the movie version of the stage musical).
The problem with Ramin (sorry, dude) is that he's (again) really young and pretty. Seriously, I think he's younger than me. And of course the preview was without any makeup, and dammit, he's just SO young and pretty that I kind of want to slap him for being so emo and just tell him to suck it up and move on. XD What would be tragic in a severely deformed fifty year old pining for the only woman who ever showed him a shred of compassion, is here rendered thoroughly emo, with this handsome late-twenties guy singing about how he can't live without the sound of the voice of the woman he stalked, kidnapped, and terrorized. And then let go, but he seems to have forgotten that part. ;)
So the muse struck, and so here you go. You don't need to have read the first "Pitching The Mouse," I think; but if you want to, by all means go ahead. ;-) And as a last aside, I did seriously consider making Sheila here, instead of a new character, be Randy from "Very Bad Things," but that would have required too much rewriting and would have changed the flavour too much, so I left it as an idle thought. I'm pretty sure Sheila and Randy hang out in some of the same forums, though... ;-)
"Hey, George!" Sheila waved the animator, who was peering around in his usual vague way, over to her table. "Hey, I heard you were taking an idea to Webber. How'd it go?"
George perked up as he carefully took the chair opposite his co-worker. "Oh, you mean the Phantom sequel?"
"Yeah, that thing. What were you calling it? 'Once Upon Another Time'?"
George sat back with a look of immense satisfaction. "Naw, that was for the animated version. Too Disney for Webber. We're going with 'Love Never Dies'."
"Hey! He went for it, then? You're really working with him!"
"Yup! Oh, a dry martini, extra olive," he added to a passing waitress. "Yup, we're just smoothing out some of the rough spots now." He turned back to Sheila with a grin.
"Well, congratulations, then! Yeah, it's gotta be rough trying to bring the Phantom back from the dead…"
"Naw, naw." George waved her away. "We never actually see him die at the end, so that's not an issue. No, the problem is the character of the Phantom." He leant forward, clasping his hands on the table as he earnestly spoke.
"You mean, with the whole redemption thing, how do you make a seq—"
"What I mean is, look at the show. You've got this guy who's what, thirty? Forty?"
"Yeah, and he's falling in love with this teenager. It's creepy, right? It's practically pedophilia."
"And the kids aren't gonna get turned on by some creepy old guy."
"You'd be surprised…" murmured Sheila.
"No, I mean, like, Michael Crawford, right? Great voice, originated the role, the grandmas love him, but he's what? Pushing eighty now?"
"Not quite. But—"
"I know, right? I mean Gerard was great, had the look down pat, but you know, the age gap is still a bit creepy. I mean, he's been watching over her since she was a kid, right? And a lot of people felt that he didn't really have the right… I mean he was good, don't get me wrong, but…"
"But he was woefully miscast for a role that required a trained voice."
"Yeah. What you said. Nicely put. So we're casting—the guys we're casting are gonna be a bit closer in age, so that'll shut some people up, and they've both done the stage show, too, so that'll shut people up too." He sat back, satisfied.
"Oh?" Curiosity tinted Sheila's voice. "Which cast? London? Toronto? One of the touring shows?"
"I know, right? So we're casting these hip young guys right out of the Vegas show, and we're giving the Phantom the Darth Vader treatment. It'll be awesome. The teenyboppers are gonna eat it up."
Sheila hesitated. "I'm almost afraid to ask…"
"What's the Darth Vader treatment?" George grinned. "Well, you know who DV is, right?"
"Well, sure," Sheila answered slowly. "Iconic villain, one of the most famous bad guys from the twentieth century, powerful dark figure, English teachers use him as an example of a tragic hero…"
"Boring! I mean, sure, he was a big hit with the kiddies what, thirty years ago? But honestly, who cares anymore, right? I mean, so he's this big scary guy with the stupid voice thing going on and all 'Luke I am your father' and what. Who cares? Who's buying the Darth Vader underwear and lunch boxes and sheets and stuff now, huh? No one, that's who." He leant forwards again, oblivious of, or ignoring, Sheila's shocked face. "So what did Lucas do? He updated him. Gave us a whole new set of stories about this hip young guy, really handsome, real looker there, gave him a hot chick girlfriend, threw in some angst, and there you go! Winner."
"Winner? He turned him into this whiny little emo—emo-guy. He stripped all the power and majesty out of the character just so he could appeal to the teenyboppers or something!"
"Yes! Teenyboppers. That's the key, Sheila! The kids with the disposable income. No rent to pay, no bills, no kids wanting new clothes or visits to the dentist or whatever the hell. Teenagers. The younger the better. And what are the kids these days into? Emo. Angst. Twilight and shi—stuff. They're eating it up, Sheila. They're fighting to hand over their money."
"They aren't the ones that made Phantom such a hit, though, George!"
"Pfft. Of course they are! Five years ago, where was Phantom, huh? And then the movie came out, and the teenyboppers came in droves. And why? Did they care that the Phantom wasn't deformed? Did they care about his voice? Hell, no! Hell, they loved his voice! And then they nagged their parents into taking them to the show, and the thing took off, Sheila! It took off."
Sheila sank her face into her hands. "George, there's so much wrong with that statement I can't even begin to tell you."
"Look. Ten years ago, you'd Google Phantom and what would you get? A handful of fan pages, mostly about how sexy the Phantom was. Seven years ago, same thing. Then the movie came out. You know how many hits you get today if you Google 'Phantom of the Opera', Sheila? Four and a half million. Almost four point six. And you know what's at the top of the list? The young, sexy, pretty movie Phantom. It's what the kids want, Sheila! So why not give it to them?"
"Well, because you'll completely remove the entire point of the story, and rob the original of its power—"
"Pfft. Who's still watching the original, anyways? Do you know, the kids go to that show and you wanna know what they wanna know? They wanna know what happened to the swordfight, and Learn To Be Lonely. They wanna know why the Phantom's all old and gross."
"George," Sheila took a deep breath. "I like to think I'm your fr—co-worker, right? So let me be honest, okay?"
"Sure. Fine. Shoot."
"This is, like, the worst idea in the history of worst ideas. When Hitler decided to invade Russia in the winter, his generals said, 'Dude, that's a pretty bad idea,' but Hitler said, 'Yeah, but dudes, they're making a sequel to Phantom with an emo-Erik.' And his generals all went, 'Really? Well, hell, then let's invade Russia, sure!'" She rubbed her eyes.
"I mean, I'm sorry, but it's just…"
"No, no, you had to say it if you felt it, I get it." George looked away, his jaw twitching. "But you know, you could do me the courtesy of believing in me, of trusting me just a little bit, that we could make it work. That we aren't idiots."
Sheila sighed. "You're right. I'm sorry. Of course you aren't going to just—It just really sounds like, I dunno…" She trailed off.
"Yeah, I guess it does."
"So what are you going to do with him, then?"
"Well, like, he's got this really great song, right? About how much he misses Christine's voice. I mean, sure, he let her go, but he still loves her, you know? You can't just fall out of love like that." He snapped his fingers. "So he's got this really sad, emo song about how he'll never be complete again unless he hears her voice again…"
Sheila sighed. "Wow. That sounds great, George. Really great. Have you got a costume for him yet? You know, a look?"
"Well, I'm more involved in the, you know, the book end of things. Like the story, you know, the ideas, the script…"
"Right. Okay, well then, pass this on. If he's gonna be all emo then he's got to have the long black bangs, right? And the eyeliner, and the studded belt. Don't let Webber forget, okay? If he wants to attract the kids then he's got to have the emo bangs and the belt and stuff."
"Cool." George whipped out a little notebook and wrote furiously. "'Long… black… bangs… studded… belt.' I'm glad you're on board with this, I really am."
"Yeah, well, an idea as fantastic as this, how could I not be?" Sheila said dryly. "You know what, though? You should totally lose the 'Phantom of the Opera Two' from the title, you know? Make it just 'Love Never Dies.' Distance yourself completely from the original. I mean, you don't want to be dragged down by all that pervy pedo baggage, right?" She smiled sweetly.
"Hey, great idea!" George scribbled again. "Yeah, we can make it a complete stand-alone, so you don't have to have seen the first one to get it. You know, makes it more accessible, too. People aren't going to go, 'Oh, well, it looks good, but I haven't seen the first one,' and not bother, right?"
"Right. In fact," Sheila sat up straighter, "You could even lose the mask and stuff, too, right? Just make it the story of this singer and her tutor who parted ways, but, like, he totally never stalked her or kidnapped her or anything."
"No, no… we have to have that, I told you." George snapped his notebook shut and replaced it in his pocket. "Angst, right? The impossible love. Like Twilight."
"Ah. Right." Sheila slumped slightly. "Oh well," she muttered under her breath, "the phandom can't say I didn't try. So," she added, louder, "What else does Webber have in the works?"
"Oh, well, he has cancer, you know?" George said casually.
"What? Oh my god, no, I didn't! Is he gonna be okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, he'll be fine, they caught it early." George waved a careless hand. "But he says he's been thinking, you know, about mortality and stuff. I think he's got an idea in the back of his mind about, like, some sick guy and an angel or something. Maybe it's God, or, like, his doctor is really God or Death or something. I didn't really catch it. But yeah, something deep like that. Pure angst. The kids'll love it."
"Well!" Sheila smiled brightly. "That sounds great. I really, really hope he gets going on that one too. Soon," she added, with deep feeling.
"I'll pass it on," said George, getting up. "I should go, though. Good talking to you."
"Yeah, George, you too. Remember, emo bangs."
"Right." And George wandered off.
"…Because, with any luck at all, emo bangs will get him mocked heavily enough that it closes early and sinks without a trace," Sheila finished under her breath. "Good lord. 'Love Never Dies.' Shame they probably won't rip a little class off of 'Dracula', too."
A/N: So there you go! Pitching the Mouse II. I'm not intending to write a PtM3, but you never know; I wasn't intending to write PtM2. I probably won't unless ALW goes and does something ridiculous again-- which, historically speaking, means that this may turn into an ongoing series, heh.
Thanks for reading! Please review! :D