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A CurtainUp London London Review
Aspects of Love

This can't go on another day. — George Dillingham
Aspects of Love
Ellie Bamber as Jenny aged 12 and Michael Arden as Alex Dillingham (Photo: Catherine Ashmore)
We were expecting a small scale version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love directed by Trevor Nunn at the Menier Chocolate Factory. The musical is based on a 1955 novel by David Garnett which the theatre programme describes as a "a kind of later day La Boheme, a hedonistic story of love among the artists, but across the generations."

The major criticism of the 1984 production, also directed by Nunn was that the musical was over inflated in its West End premiere at the Prince of Wales. What we get in 2010 is indeed played in the intimate space that is the now the world wide famous, Tony award winning, Menier, but at two hours forty minutes, this back list musical from the Lloyd Webber stable feels overly long.

Love Changes. The signature tune "Love Changes Everything" is a good one but after it has been heard more than four times, it feels more than a little jaded. I think this popular tune must have been repeated maybe seven or more times, like a stuck needle which ensures that as you leave the theatre you will not be able to get it out of your head!

The plot covers romantic entanglements over three decades, mostly in France but diverting to Venice. Alex Dillingham (Michael Arden), a young and impressionable Englishman on a first visit to France, with the help of a bottle of Armagnac, comes under the spell of an older woman, a French actress Rose Vibert (Katherine Kingsley) whose current amour is the actor manager Marcel (Martyn Ellis). Rose in turn falls for, or decides on the materially secure alternative of marriage to Alex's uncle, Sir George Dillingham (Dave Willetts) who is an artist and who lives in Pau, in a French vineyard and who has been in a long term relationship with the Italian sculptress, Giulietta Trapani (Rosalie Craig) who will also have a dalliance with Rose. Alex is whisked off to the war and on his return he meets Rose now with her new lover Hugo (Dominic Tighe) but still living with George. French marriages are so complicated! When Alex goes back to Uncle George and Rose's family home, he meets their 12 year old daughter, Jenny (Ellie Bamber, Grace Morrison or Suzy Oxenham). Three years later, Alex and Jenny fall for each other but this relationship between a considerably older man and his 15 year old daughter is most unwelcome to George. Alex then switched his affections to Giulietta. I hope you're keeping up!

We see Rose wearing a frock which belonged to George's dead wife and the same frock is worn years later by their daughter Jenny (Rebecca Brewer). We start to worry that George's relationship with his daughter might be a tad obsessive, when he sings that he wants "to be the first man she remembers and the last man she forgets".

One of the other issues is that the show is sung through which gives it an intensity in relentless delivery of operatic recitative. Trevor Nunn has tried to make the main songs stand out more in this production but for me there still isn't enough contrast. There is one scene which uses good choreography when Giulietta sings the lively risk taking "Hand Me the Wine and Dice". There is a knife throwing act which is cleverly staged at the Circus in the mid 1960s. The first throwing of the knives has you asking how it is done but by the second bout we have guessed! The set is limited but we get to see the mountains through the library windows, there is a believable theatre for Rose to act in and a café for the theatre crowd to hang around in, and a train carriage to ride in.

The eight man band are squashed into an area above the stage where a large beam seems to separate the conductor and his musicians. However there are successful songs, George's "Other Pleasures" which he claims he would trade them all for you: the you of the song being his teenage daughter! DaveWilletts has a lovely voice and it is interesting to see him besotted by love for his daughter. Michael Arden hits all the right notes musically, manages the near octave drop in the oft repeated "Love Changes Everything" and as an ingénue never really achieves sophisticationeven as a much older man. Katherine Kingsley as Rose conveys the hard and manipulative aspect of Rose's character for this musical which could well be subtitled, La Vie En Rose! But there is a problem here in as far as I could not believe in the characters or in their frequent switching of affections. Aspects of Love should be a work in progress.

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Aspects of Love
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart
Story adapted from the novel by David Garnett
Directed by Trevor Nunn

Starring: Michael Arden, Katherine Kingsley, Dave Willetts, Rosalie Craig
With: Martyn Ellis, Louisa Lydell, Dominic Tighe, Ellie Bamber, Grace Morrison, Rebecca Brewer, Ian McLarnon, David Roberts, Chris Andrew Mellon, Savannah Stevenson, Rebecca Trehearne, Jill Armour
Set and Costume Design: David Farley
Choreography: Lynne Page
Musical Supervisor: Caroline Humphris
Lighting: Paul Pyant
Sound: Gareth Owen
Musical Director: Tom Murray
Running time: Two hours 40 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 79077060
Booking to 26th September 2010
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 16th July 2010 at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark Street, London SE1 1RU (Rail/Tube:Charing Cross)
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Love Changes Everything (Alex)
  • A small theatre in Montphile (Rose, Marcel, actress, Alex)
  • Parlez-vous Français? (Crooner, Alex, Rose, Marcel, Waiter and Actors)
  • The railway station (Alex and Rose)
  • Seeing is Believing (Alex and Rose)
  • The house in Pau (Alex and Rose)
  • An art exhibition in Paris (George and Giulietta)
  • A Memory of a Happy Moment (Giulietta and George)
  • In many rooms in the house at Pau (Rose and Alex)
  • On the terrace ( George, Alex and Rose)
  • Outside the bedroom (Rose and Alex)
  • Chanson d'Enfance (Rose and Alex)
  • At the house at Pau (Rose and Alex)
  • Everybody Loves A Hero (Harkers and Ensemble)
  • George's flat in Paris (Alex and Rose)
  • First orchestral interlude (Alex, Servant, Rose and George)
  • She'd Be Far Better Off with You (George and Alex)
  • Second Orchestral interlude (orchestra)
  • Stop. Wait. Please. (George, Giulietta and Rose)
  • A registry office (George, Rose and Giulietta)
  • A military camp in Malaysia (Alex)
Act Two
  • Orchestral introduction to Act II (orchestra)
  • A theatre in Paris (Marcel, Rose, actress and Hugo)
  • Leading Lady (Marcel, Rose, Alex and Hugo)
  • At the stage door (Rose and Alex)
  • George's house at Pau (George and Jenny)
  • Other Pleasures (George)
  • A café in Venice (Giulietta)
  • There is More to Love (Giulietta)
  • The garden in Pau (George, Jenny, Rose and Alex)
  • Mermaid Song (Jenny, Alex and George)
  • The country side around the house (Third orchestral interlude) (orchestra)
  • The garden at Pau (Jenny, Alex and Rose)
  • On the terrace (George, Hugo, Alex, Rose and Jenny)
  • The First Man You Remember (George and Jenny)
  • The vineyard at Pau (George, Rose, Alex, Jenny, Hugo and Workmen)
  • Up in the Pyrenees (Jenny and Alex)
  • George's study at Pau (George and Rose)
  • Journey of a Lifetime (Chanteuse, Ensemble, Geogre, Rose, Alex and Jenny)
  • Falling (Alex, Jenny, Rose and George)
  • Jenny's bedroom in Paris (Alex, Jenny, George, Rose and Hugo)
  • Hand Me the Wine and the Dice (Giulietta, Chorus, Alex, Jenny, Rose, Hugo and Marcel)
  • A hay loft (Giulietta and Alex)
  • On the terrace (Alex, Jenny and Rose)
  • Anything But Lonely (Rose, Alex, Giulietta)

Note: most of the musical is sung, however not all the parts that are sung are titled songs some are simply sung-through scenes with minor amounts of dialogue.

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