Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Aspects of Love, with lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart, is probably best remembered for the song “Love Changes Everything”, which was a massive hit for its original West End leading man Michael Ball.
Taken from a novel by David Garnett, the story revolves around Alex Dillingham, who meets and falls in love with an actress called Rose Vibert. Alex takes Rose to stay at his Uncles George’s empty villa where they reside happily - until George himself arrives and Rose realises she’s falling in love with both men. Torn between them, she decides to deceive Alex, by saying she’s required to return to the theatre, when she actually follows George, and they eventually marry.
Thirteen years later Alex goes backstage to meet Rose following her performance in a play and together they travel to meet George and Jenny, the couple’s daughter. But two years later, Jenny falls in love anew with Alex, a relationship George is determined to stop, not realising the tragic events that are to follow.
In this new production, the female leads score head and shoulders above their male colleagues. As Rose, Shona Lindsay – who, previously, was the youngest performer to ever play Christine in Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera - simply steals the show. Her rendition of “Anything But Lonely” is the highlight of the evening. She’s well supported by Poppy Tierney as Guiletta, the alternate love interest for both George and Rose (cue verbal intake of breath from a large part of the audience in Newcastle!).
All eyes should of course be fixed on Alex, the central character, who’s played by another Lloyd Webber veteran, Matt Rawle, most recently seen in the West End as Che in Evita. Unfortunately, Rawle is no Michael Ball. He has neither the charisma or stage presence demanded for the role – you’re left wondering why these women keep throwing themselves at him. I couldn’t help but think how much better Lee Mead would have been suited to the role had the TV competition not been for Joseph!
Meanwhile, David Essex brings David Essex to the role of Uncle George. It’s hardly a riveting interpretation - but he certainly still has a loyal, and vocal, fan following who ensure that his curtain call is greeted by cheers.
Underwhelming performances aside, this show’s real failure to grip stems from the sung-through score requires many short scenes involving continual changes of scenery and blackouts. While the set by designer Robert Jones is very clever, and nice to look at, only one of the revolves is motorised - so you’re keep being distracted by the sights of stagehands pushing the other two revolves. When Aspects of Love originally opened in the West End, the set was based on a series of “travelators” (similar to those in an airport) which allowed the scenes to flow more naturally, almost cinematically. Neither the Australian version (which came to the Theatre Royal many years ago) nor this new revival has the equipment to achieve the same.
- John Dixon (reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle)