Based on the 1955 David Garnett novella of the same name, Aspects of Love is a musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart. Originally debuting in 1989 at the Prince Of Wales Theatre, Aspects of Love was a British-born hit with audiences and critics alike who praised its young bright-eyed star Michael Ball. The musical’s popularity crossed into the pop charts with songs The Last Man You Remember and Love Changes Everything, the latter reaching #2 and staying in the charts for fifteen weeks. Since then, the musical has seen a Broadway production, US and UK Tours and international productions mounted in South Africa and the Netherlands. More recently Webber devised a definitive script for the musical with a production of this new revised version premiering at the Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester in 2018 before transferring to Southwark Playhouse in 2019. This year, a new revival production has been mounted at the Lyric Theatre in the glittering West End. With the score re-arranged for a chamber orchestra by Tom Kelly and Aspects darling, Michael Ball back in the show. London audiences once again have the chance to see this interesting Lloyd Webber gem and can discover how love, in its many forms, truly can change everything.
In post-war France, a young, struggling actress Rose Vibert finds herself homeless and penniless after her hoped-for career break play closes early. Invited to a country villa by a love-struck young American, Alex, she impulsively accepts. When unexpectedly interrupted by Alex’s distinguished uncle George, everything changes. So begins a tumultuous 20-year love story, entwining the three of them and George’s mistress, the feisty artist Giulietta. Everything changes once again when Rose’s daughter Jenny turns 18. From the cobbled streets of Paris, through the French countryside to the splendors of Venice, Aspects of Love is a sweeping romantic story of passion, love, betrayal and heartbreak across three generations.
Michael Ball gives a colourful and thoroughly entertaining performance as the eccentric artist George. Leaning away from belty pop song, his new rendition of Love Changes Everything was understated and beautiful before moving into the second verse with more drive and the powerful ending we’ve all come to love. Such a thrill to see him once again in Aspects singing his signature song, bringing tears to the eyes of the audience. Jamie Bogyo as the love-sick Alex, gives a solid performance throughout and his rendition of Love Changes Everything reprise at the end of act one was particularly impressive. Danielle de Niese gave a sultry performance as Giulietta with her powerful soprano and her There Is More to Love was a masterclass in storytelling. Laura Pitt-Pulford’s Rose was sublime. Performing with finesse, she navigated Rose’s story of lust, love and loss with expert vulnerability and a knowing twinkle in her eye allowing the audience to fall for her from the top of the show. Vocally stunning throughout, Pitt-Pulford gives a masterclass in musical theatre performance with her light and romantic Seeing Is Believing duet at the start of the show to her heartbreaking plea Anything But Lonely towards the end of act two. Brava!
John Macfarlane’s set design for this production is opulent. Reminiscent of John Napier’s sumptuous Sunset Boulevard set, Macfarlane has used a double revolve to navigate actors and props around the stage while the use of moving front projection panels cleverly masks scene changes and allows the actors to enter and exit unseen. The use of rich hand-painted watercolour paintings provides backdrops and punctuates locale while adding a sense of romance. Proving why he’s one of the best musical theatre composers of our time, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score is beautiful and Tom Kelly’s chamber music arrangements are sweeping, encompassing and passionate.
As Act Two begins, the plot turns to George and Rose’s thirteen-year-old daughter Jenny. Alex returns and Jenny soon has a crush on him, after all, he’s a handsome older gentleman soldier. The audience watches her grow up and soon after turning 18, she and Alex develop romantic feelings towards each other. The only issue is, Alex use to sleep with her mother. Oh, and they’re cousins! However, this doesn’t stop them from canoodling, kissing, and lusting after one another. Seeing this, George soon has a heart attack and sadly passes away leaving Rose and Giulietta to throw a drunken wake where they scatter his ashes.. over the other party guests. Not quite the sweeping romantic story the audience thought we were in for as we sat uncomfortably aghast and wondering how this problematic plot line was not edited out, dramaturgy-ed away or simply canceled back when the show premiered in 1989, let alone in Webber’s definitive script and this again recent revival.
With top-tier talent and oodles of sophisticated charm, this revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love is beautiful to look at, with gorgeous voices and stunning music. And while love maybe didn’t change everything, lust and the fallout of which was the winner of the day for most of the characters and lust is, after all, an aspect of love.
Reviewed by Stuart James