Aspects of Love review is out!
Calling all hopeless romantics: sappy, showy and sentimental, Aspects of Love has all of the trappings of your favourite guilty pleasure romance novel. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s dreamy musical comes to Shaftesbury Avenue for a limited season at the Lyric Theatre, with spectacular production value and original cast member Michael Ball here to sweeten the deal. Though the plot retains some questionable elements, the cast sells its many twists and turns with a campy spirit and killer vocals, ensuring you’ll be humming the charming melodies for days afterwards.
Based on the novel by David Garnett, Aspects of Love charts a wild journey through several decades and European locales. We begin with Rose Vibert, an actress down on her luck, who decides to run away with her adoring (and 18-year-old) fan, Alex Dillingham, to a villa in the south of France owned by his uncle George. When George turns up to investigate his nephew’s tryst, Rose finds herself smitten with both men and hatches a scheme that wins her George’s hand in marriage - with a few added benefits from the company of George’s mistress, Gulieta. But don’t worry about poor Alex: having faced no consequences for shooting Rose in the arm in a jealous rage, years later he sets his sights on Rose and George’s daughter Jenny instead. Predictably, hijinks ensue, and the play ends with a spotlight on the three women - Rose, Jenny, and Gulieta - with Alex’s uncertain future hanging in the balance. It’s the kind of story that separates the cynics from those who believe that love truly can change everything, as the opening song declares.
The cast leans into the tangled fantasy, with sopranos Laura Pitt-Pulford and Danielle de Niese delivering passionate, powerhouse performances as Rose and Gulieta. Jamie Boygo is convincingly tortured as Alex, but of course, the real star is Michael Ball as Uncle George. His ballad of fatherly affection for Jenny, “The First Man You Remember,” is so tenderly sung that sniffles could be heard from the audience for much of the following scene. Don Black and Charles Hart’s lyrics are entirely set to music by Lloyd-Webber, which lends the show an operatic feel that is well matched by the accompaniment of a chamber orchestra.
The soaring arrangements are sure to remind one of their favourite classic films, and the cinematic parallels continue into the production design, with vintage videos of cobbled French alleyways and Venetian canals serving as establishing shots between scenes. John McFarlane’s set and costumes remind one of a Disney fairytale, with watercolour backdrops, 1950s day dresses, and a spectacularly striped and spangled circus. Director Jonathan Kent devises a novel trick with moving panels that give the impression of a changing aspect ratio onstage, and choreographer Denni Sayers adds a whirling intensity to a funeral scene set in the vineyards of Tuscany.
With much to delight the eye and ear, Aspects of Love is an ambitious, extravagant confection of a love story that promises to sweep even the most hard-hearted off their feet.
I first fell in love with the theatre during a preschool production of Caps For Sale, in which I treasured my single line. Since then, I’ve discovered an even greater love: writing about the productions that challenge me, surprise me, and bring me the utmost joy, in the hopes that others will seek out theatre with the power to enrich their lives and inspire wonder.