Monday, 29 May 2023

REVIEW: Aspects of Love at the Lyric Theatre

Whilst theatre takes on many guises nothing can match the unbridled splendour of a West End production. The bright lights of Shaftsbury Avenue now play host to a revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love. With such a formidable creative line-up there was no doubt this musical would deliver the goods. The multi-award-winning Don Black contributes lyrics as does Charles Hart, who collaborated with Lord Webber on the wildly successful Phantom of the Opera. The show first aired in 1989 and hit Broadway the following year. It has enjoyed periodic revivals and national tours since then, but this sumptuous new production raises the musical to new heights.

The story concentrates on love, life and romantic dramas we call affairs of the heart. Alex Dillingham (Jamie Bogyo) meets and instantly falls in love with the beautiful and charismatic actress Rose Vibert (Laura Pitt-Pulford). However Rose becomes smitten with Alex’s uncle George (Michael Ball), who has an occasional mistress Giuletta (Danielle De Niese) in tow. Rose and George later have a daughter Jenny (Anna Unwin), who falls in love with her older cousin Alex. The lives of the five principal characters are traced over a seventeen-year period. Relationships ebb and flow as they weave a tangled emotional web.

A brilliant set designed by John Macfarlane presents a visual collage that is endlessly easy on the eye. It cleverly obscures a full-scale orchestra that is only revealed at the finale; a welcome but increasingly rare feature on the West End stage. The cast are note perfect and Michael Ball as always, puts in a scene-stealing shift as Uncle George. There is a curious sense of coming full circle as he played Alex in the original production; his natural feel for the show is obvious. The score has all the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber motifs with its sweeping arrangements and haunting melodies. There are many memorable tunes including ‘Everybody Loves a Hero’ and ‘the perfect leading lady’. But ‘Love changes everything’ dominates with its familiar refrain and unmistakable fanfare. It also proves Andrew Lloyd Webber has an adept ear for a standalone pop hit.

Many will squirm at the sentiment of the plot and the gushingly romantic disposition of the songs. But the raw emotion displayed by the characters is refreshingly candid. They see nothing wrong in wearing their hearts on their sleeves, but may not sit well with those who prefer to keep their emotions under wraps. It will have its detractors, but this is what a night at the theatre is all about.

Review by Brian Penn

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: Stalls Q12 | Price of Ticket: £108
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