Aspects of Love is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s less well-known scores, first performed in 1989 with Michael Ball in the role of young Alex Dillingham. This production sees him return, this time as the older Uncle George Dillingham.
The story requires a suspension of disbelief and an understanding that we are in musical theatre world, where not everything makes sense. There are elements that are definitely problematic – blatant incest between cousins and a man arguing with his uncle over which of them should end up with the woman he’s just shot (she’s fine, not that anyone asks) – but if you go with the absurdity and don’t overthink it, there are moments of real heart. The music is beautiful, with stand out songs being ‘Seeing is Believing’, ‘Love Changes Everything’ and ‘Anything But Lonely’. The score, which has been reorchestrated for this production, is almost entirely sung-through and has a sweeping, operatic feel. The production value is high, with designer John Macfarlane creating beautifully painted backdrops that depict Parisian streets and rural landscapes. Video by Douglas O’Connell is used to mark the passing of time or changes of location without the need for long and clunky scene changes.
The cast do well with material that doesn’t always give them well-rounded characters to work with. Laura Pitt-Pulford is worth the ticket price alone as Rose, a struggling actress who is swept off her feet by a young fan and, later, his uncle. She gives a nuanced performance that gives a difficult character depth and vulnerability and her voice is stunning. Jamie Bogyo plays Alex Dillingham, a young man who falls in love with the beautiful Rose and whisks her away to his uncle’s country house, only to be interrupted and usurped by said uncle. Bogyo has a great voice but struggles to portray any real depth of emotion and can at times almost become caricature. Uncomfortable laughs at places there really shouldn’t have been laughs from the audience, speaks for itself.
Michael Ball is charming as George and is clearly very comfortable with the piece. It has also been reworked so that he can sing ‘Love Changes Everything’, which he sang first time round as Alex, and this moment is a crowd-pleaser, although the way it’s now been shoe-horned into the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense. Danielle De Niese, star of the opera world, plays Giulietta Trapani, George’s Italian Mistress. It’s an interesting character but we don’t see enough of her to form any strong connection, which is a shame as De Niese is fantastic.
Anna Unwin as Jenny, George and Rose’s daughter, is the only other character we spend much time with and although Jenny’s age has been raised in this production from a very problematic 15 to 18, it is difficult not to feel uncomfortable with her entire storyline.
There has clearly been a lot of thought and love put into this revival, and setting aside the problematic elements of the story, it’s everything else about it that makes it worth a visit.