In Association with

Lloyd Webber
Aspects of Love
Phantom of the Opera
Starlight Express
Les Miserables
Miss Saigon
The Baker's Wife
Stars of the Stage

The Best Showbiz
Shop On-line

Dress Circle

Lloyd Webber's best so far

Charles Osborne at the first night of 'Aspects of Love'

To its producers, it can hardly matter in the slightest whether Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical Aspects of Love, which opened last night at the Prince of Wales Theatre, is a lively and inventive show like his early "Jesus Christ Superstar" or an amalgam of musical and dramatic clichés like his most recent, "The Phantom of the Opera".

Its related merchandise, the sweatshirts, the mugs and so on, are doing a brisk trade, and advance ticket sales guarantee a run of at least a year. But, for the benefit of those readers who may already be giving urgent consideration to their theatre-going plans for the spring of 1990 and beyond, a description of "Aspects of Love" might prove really useful.

David Garnett's short novel of the same title on which the musical is based is a rather fey account of the love-lives of three characters, spanning a period of 17 years from the mid-Thirties to the early post-war period, and written in a style which, though it scatters the occasional cultural allusion about, has something in common with both Barbara Cartland and Daisy Ashford.

In adapting Garnett's novel for the musical stage, Don Black and Charles Hart have done remarkably little violence to its spirit, and have stayed close to its narrative line.

Alex, a 17-year-old English youth studying at the University of Montpellier, becomes infatuated with Rose, an actress in her 20s, and takes her to a villa owned by his 60-year-old uncle, George Dillingham, for what means no more to her than two weeks of agreeable sex before her next theatrical engagement. When George, an elegant, sophisticated widower, unexpectedly arrives, Rose leaves Alex for him, shattering that young man's romantic illusions.

As these sexually volatile characters grow older, their liaisons assume a certain flexibility. Having married George, Rose gives birth to a daughter, takes a young lover, and later embarks upon a lesbian relationship with George's mistress, Giulietta. In his 30's, Alex does his non-too-successful best to resist the temptation put in his way by the nubile charms of Rose's daughter, Jenny, who is now 14.

The score of "Aspects of Love" is Andrew Lloyd Webber's least eclectic to date, for it is reminiscent only of Claude-Michel Schoenberg, composer of "Les Miserables". Lloyd Webber is parsimonious with his tunes, but then so was Wagner. Separate musical numbers do emerge, through for the most part this continuously composed score proceeds in a leisurely arioso, one or two melodic motifs recurring throughout to give it a stylistic unity.

The music, which falls quite agreeably on the ear, is of that kind which the record companies classify as "easy listening", though formally it aspires to the condition of opera. There is a charming gavotte in Act 2 and a lively ensemble for George's joyous funeral (splendidly choreographed by Gillian Lynne).

The lyrics, however, are occasionally infelicitous. An example: "The house is my uncle's; I'm afraid I was lying / He's working in Paris, he won't come here crying". Once or twice a clumsy telescoping of the plot results in scenes which are meant to be dramatic coming across as fairly risible.

No one need feel disappointed by Roger Moore's withdrawal from the role of George, for his replacement, Kevin Colson, gives a performance of great skill and charm, deploying a serviceable baritone voice to fine effect in his two solo numbers, both of which, especially the gentle "Other Pleasures", were warmly applauded.

Oddly, two American performers who are virtually interchangeable have been engaged for the roles of the French Rose and the Italian Giulietta. Ann Crumb is unsuitably brash in Rose's early scenes, but is both powerful and affecting as the confident actress and anxious mother of Act 2.

Kathleen Rowe McAllen is an attractive Giulietta, but both these leading female roles suffer a certain loss of verisimilitude by being played, as it were, mid-Atlantic. Michael Ball invests Alex with an engagingly reticent charm, ages convincingly from 17 to 34, and uses his attractive tenor voice very effectively in his romantic solo "Love Changes Everything".

The staging is highly efficient. Trevor Nunn's directorial hand is not readily apparent, which is one way of saying that he has directed with great expertise and discretion. Maria Bjornson has designed pleasing sets which swiftly and smoothly change to reveal railway station, country villa, mountain landscape, Venetian café and at least 20 other locations.

The "sound design" (which, being translated, means relentless over-amplification) is by Martin Levan, and the excellent 14-piece orchestra is conducted by Michael Reed. A first-night audience greeted this not very highly flavoured but oddly appealing musical with immense enthusiasm. It is certainly Andrew Lloyd Webber's best so far.

Music which falls quite agreeably on the ear:
the mid-Atlantic Ann Crumb and skilful Kevin Colson in "Aspects of Love"

Charles Osborne, The Daily Telegraph, 18 April 1989


Copyright © 2002 M. Kniestedt. All rights reserved.