Review: Aspects of Love (Hope Mill Theatre)
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love is given a magnificent revival at the Hope Mill in Manchester
I've always felt a twinge of sympathy for Aspects of Love. Sandwiched as it was between the Grand Guignol behemoths of The Phantom of the Opera and Sunset Boulevard, when it first appeared at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1989, it always felt like the Cinderella of the Andrew Lloyd Webber canon. Most of us at that time never quite got it and the melodies (bar one) were hidden under a landslide of musical theatre detritus that the show never quite felt comfortable with. Now, with Jonathan O'Boyle's magnificent production the shoe finally fits and Aspects is off to the ball.
Gone are the nauseating vibratos, the adversarial orchestra, the palpable horror of a tunelessly sung-through book. In their place come performances of cut-glass perfection, musicality from Gareth Bretherton – with just two pianos and percussion – of immense emotional power and a dappled pastel-infused shutter-encircled design from Jason Denvir conjuring warm nights of yearning and desire.
The signature number "Love Changes Everything" has never sounded so beautiful or so perceptive, with the refrains whispering across the Hope Mill's intimate space like a Mediterranean breeze. New melodies appear that were never there before – all strangled at birth in big barn-like spaces. Here, they're allowed to come alive and make connections with the audience that prickle the skin and moisten the eyes.
The story's structure on paper looks convoluted, but the precision of O'Boyle's vision brings it simply to life. People steer a path through love in so many different ways: sometimes it's painful, other times joyous, but in this production the road is infused with a passion that avoids overblown camp and tethers the action to the intimacy it deserves, with echoes of Chekhovian languor and Mozartian playfulness along the way.
Felix Mosse as Alex dispatches the ghost of Michael Ball with ease and infuses his magnificently taut performance with a Jude Law-like insouciance. He's a blond boy of a man trailing puffs of Bosie behind him, bringing a gratifying layer of complexity to the part. Indeed, the cast is all so finely honed that it's hard to pick anyone out for singular praise. This is ensemble work of the highest order.
The Hope Mill has been home to some pretty wonderful musical theatre since it opened in 2016, but with this Aspects some kind of alchemy has occurred. Go and soak up the magic before it's too late.