A reviews round-up for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love at the Lyric Theatre in London, starring Michael Ball.
Directed by Jonathan Kent, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical is revived in the West End in a brand new production that stars Michael Ball (Les Miserables) as George, plus Laura Pitt Pulford (Seven Brides For Seven Brothers) as Alex, Jamie Bogyo (Moulin Rouge!) as Alex, Danielle de Niese as Giulietta, and Anna Unwin as Jenny.
Alongside original music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the show boasts lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart, based on the novel by David Garnett.
Set in post-World War II France, and then 20 years later, the story starts with the beautiful and penniless actress Rose Vibert. Invited to a country villa by love struck young American Alex, the weekend is unexpectedly interrupted by Alex’s distinguished uncle George. So begins a tumultuous 20-year love story, entwining the three of them and George’s mistress, the feisty artist Giulietta. Everything changes once again when Rose’s daughter Jenny turns 18.
Other cast in the show include Rosemary Ashe (Elizabeth), Anthony Cable (Ensemble) Vinny Coyle (Hugo), Chumisa Dornford-May (Ensemble), Sophia Foroughi (Ensemble), Dickon Gough (Barker/Ensemble), Ben Heathcote (Co-Barker/Ensemble), Eu Jin Hwang (On Stage Swing), Daniel Jagusz-Holley (On Stage Swing), Linda Jarvis (Ensemble), Natasha O’Brien (On Stage Swing), Joanna O’Hare (On Stage Swing), Michael Matus (Marcel), and sharing the role of Young Jenny are: Indiana Ashworth, Millie Gubby and Katie Mitton.
The wider creative team includes Set and costume design by John McFarlane, Lighting Design by Jon Clark, Sound Design by Paul Groothius, Video Design by Douglas O’Connell, Choreography by Denni Sayers, Musical Supervision by Nicholas Skilbeck and the Musical Director is Cat Beverbridge.
Read reviews from London critics including The Times, Telegraph, Guardian, and TimeOut, with more reviews to follow.
Aspects of Love is running at the Lyric Theatre in London until 11 November 2023.
Aspects of Love reviews
"Andrew Lloyd Webber’s breathtakingly inappropriate 1989 musical is a delight so long as you ignore basically the entire plot"
"Even in a toned-down new version, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wildly problematic 1989 musical leaves me unsure how to rationally respond to it. Part of me thinks I should be trying to whip up a pitchfork-wielding mob to drive it out of town. Another part of me thinks… eh, it’s quite good fun if you can avoid thinking too hard about what’s actually going on."
"Its first truly WTF moment comes in the middle of the first half, when young protagonist Alex (Jamie Bogoyo) literally shoots his former lover Rose (Laura Pitt-Pulford) out of jealousy over her new relationship with his uncle George (national treasure Michael Ball). Nobody seems to find this particularly amiss – perhaps because it’s only a flesh wound..."
"But why go to all this effort to revive it? The answer is fairly apparent: its elegant, string-driven, sung-through score is up there with Webber’s best, and includes ‘Love Changes Everything’, possibly his most beloved song."
"Ultimately the story of ‘Aspects of Love’ is probably best viewed as a relic of a different era, when people did actually cop off with their teenage cousins"
"Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love hits all the right notes"
"We’re fortunate to live in the same age as this big-hearted, popular composer"
"Swooping romance, a ripe plot, sopranos pressing backs of hands to brows amid rich orchestration and melodic refrains: Aspects of Love is classic Andrew Lloyd Webber. Jonathan Kent’s revival will no doubt divide theatre enthusiasts. Some people, itchy with hatred, are hellbent on dissing Lloyd Webber’s work. Not I. Aspects is dreamy, judiciously done and, with Michael Ball and Laura Pitt-Pulford leading the cast, well sung."
"My eyes welled, my heart melted. All the critical clichés! Lloyd Webber does this to me."
"Pitt-Pulford pulls off Rose’s transition from glamour-puss to elegant grande dame. Is Jamie Bogyo enough of a pin-up as Alex? The jury’s out. But this production is an easy, old-fashioned pleasure"
"It’s cool to mock Andrew Lloyd Webber, but this is a stylish update"
"Michael Ball is among the stars of this sophisticated revival for the post-Me Too era"
"It’s fashionable currently to knock Lloyd Webber, but this is an elegant and elegiac work of interwoven musical strains, echoes and motifs, as well as that belter of a showstopper “Love Changes Everything”."
"This is the third major production of Aspects of Love that I have seen in more than 30 years and each time the show has moved me immensely with its haunting lyricism and romantic longing."
"This is not your typical overblown West End musical – and is all the better for it. Instead, it is a stylish chamber piece: our first glimpse of the under-used ensemble comes after a whole 40 minutes. Jonathan Kent’s sophisticated production has a charmingly stripped-back staging, with a beautiful design from John Macfarlane that includes large Vanessa Bell-style painted backdrops."
"Ball proves that he still has a notable set of lungs with a glorious rendition of “Love Changes Everything”, but the real star is the luminous Pitt-Pulford, magnificent of voice"
"Michael Ball returns, and the romance still rings true"
"This revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1989 hit musical may not quite sweep you off your feet – but it still beguiles"
"With Aspects of Love, derived from David Garnett’s trim 1955 novella, he created something more chronologically sprawling but also, again, claustrophobic"
"Jonathan Kent’s fleet and classy revival, which brings Ball back to the show – this time in the role of George – and utilises potent new orchestrations (by Tom Kelly), takes the through-sung material seriously while avoiding deadly earnest"
"The evening doesn’t so much sweep you off your feet as offer kaleidoscopic perspectives on heady emotional preoccupation, refrains and strains recurring like a haunting."
"Not a resounding triumph, perhaps, but many aspects are bound to resonate."
"The same show 34 years on - and Michael Ball blows us away all over again"
"Verdict: Great moments, long half hours"
"The truth is, though, that the years have been kinder to Ball than they have been to Aspects. It's a show that grapples with a mid-life crisis all of its own. For starters, the plot: the story's bed-hopping and cradle-snatching might make even Alan Clark, Lothario of legend, wince."
"And yet, in Ball they have a one-man rescue operation. His big, furry, faintly camp, six-gigawatt stage presence warms the audience like a sun lamp — while his honeyed voice blows us to sunnier climes. And in his more thoughtful moments alone, he is tender, garlanding his performance with the grace notes of an impish glance, rueful smile and a moistened eye."
"Much love has been poured into this Aspects by all involved, and thankfully its sweetest moments make it worth the effort."
"Michael Ball twinkles but why revive this silly, creepy musical?"
"The dislikeable characters and preposterous plot, despite the stylish staging, make this revival hard to love"
"It’s hard to see why Andrew Lloyd Webber thought this creepy and downright silly chamber musical was a good idea in 1989, let alone ripe for revival now."
"The lyrics, by Don Black and Charles Hart, veer from the sophisticated to the unintentionally cringeworthy."
"On the plus side, the music, weaving endlessly around the big numbers Love Changes Everything and Seeing is Believing, is lushly romantic, and Jonathan Kent’s staging is both briskly efficient and stylish."
"Utterly unsexy, this is a story about egotism rather than passion. And the whole thing feels off, like a day-old fish."
"A superb cast, including opera star Danielle de Niese, elevates Andrew Lloyd Webber’s plodding 80s musical"
"I had low expectations as I trudged along Shaftesbury Avenue towards the theatre, but now find myself with the unexpected pleasure of having to report that I should have approached the first night with a more open mind. For this is a spectacular production – everything I assumed it would not, could not be. So much talent has been lobbed at it that it overrides the musical’s many and varied faults."
"Jonathan Kent directs with sure-footed flair, the cast is top-notch, and the recruiting of opera designer John Macfarlane is a masterstroke."
"... it is Laura Pitt-Pulford’s Rose Vibert, responsible for something more geometrically complicated than a love triangle, who is the show’s linchpin. She gives a fantastically nuanced performance, with an infectious gaiety that cannot conceal her needy melancholy."
"Michael Ball brings heft to a shallow work"
"Whether the piece, with all its polite operatic borrowings, is really worth bringing back to the West End is another matter... Yet even with its lush new orchestrations by Tom Kelly, Aspects is too desperate to be taken seriously."
"The anthemic Love Changes Everything still casts a spell in this Jonathan Kent production, yet the rest of the sung-through score remains anodyne."
"It certainly makes dramatic sense for Love Changes to be given to George rather than Alex; its view of romance is not that of a callow youth. Ball sings it with understated emotion too. But you sit through the two and a half hours hoping that the characters will acquire some sort of depth. They never do."
"One giant ick"
"Return of Michael Ball can’t redeem this baffling revival of the thin, sugary musical or excuse its offensive sexual politics"
"What a gooey, oozy, gaudy box of stale chocolates this is... This revival is, frankly, mystifying. It’s not just that the sung-through show is thinly written, mawkish and meandering; it’s not just that the music is Lloyd Webber at his most blandly saccharine or that the lyrics, by Don Black and Charles Hart, are trite – although all those things, unfortunately, are true. What’s most howlingly problematic is the plot: a textureless glob of sexist cliche that surely must have seemed faintly nauseating even three decades years ago, and now looks creepy and, at its most flagrant, startlingly offensive."
"Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Torpid, Semi-Forgotten Musical Gets an Unconvincing West End Revival"
"... [For] the whole queasy, quasi-romantic story to work, you need emotional truth. But despite the cast’s sincere efforts there is scarcely a speck of that for them to work with. In the sung-through score (no bookwriter is credited; the text is the work of lyricists Don Black and Charles Hart) they are left to sing rambling expository dialogue at one another and emote, giving audiences little to connect with. Lloyd Webber can and does lace lines from the show’s two big tunes, “Love Changes Everything” and “Seeing Is Believing,” through his score all night, but it doesn’t compensate for the lack of believable drama. And that’s before you get to the sexual politics."
"Even if you can swallow the plot — that’s a big “if” — there’s a serious problem in that for something all about sexual attraction, there is absolutely none on stage. There’s not a scintilla of heat between any of the couples. That is simultaneously a relief, since its presence would render some of the show impossible to watch, but also disastrous since without a sense of attraction, the couplings are entirely lackluster."
"A preposterous blast from the past"
"Michael Ball returns to sing Love Changes Everything, this time as the uncle, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical of romantic entanglements"
"It is, without doubt, a well-oiled show, easy on the eye and ear. John Macfarlane’s gliding screens reveal gorgeous sets and the voices are strong across the board. But for all its smoothness, there is a preposterousness to it. Much of this is down to the story"
"We get the sense that these people could only ever exist within the bounds of a musical – one that is easy enough to watch but entirely unconvincing in its emotions."
"Problematic Attachments in ‘Aspects of Love’"
"A London revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s partner-swapping musical is a camp amoral romp. But is this obsession really the same as romance?"
"This “Aspects of Love” is exquisitely produced and superbly performed, but — like many a real-life libertine — it eventually buckles under the weight of its excesses."
"Pitt-Pulford is charismatic and engaging as Rose. A vibrant stage presence, she is by turns imperious, flighty and needy — the quintessential histrionic thespian. Bogyo’s portrayal of a callow, love-struck young person is convincing; he is frequently exasperated, and we sympathize with his predicament because he is too inexperienced to know any better. Ball — who played Alex in the musical’s original production, in 1989 — is outstanding as George, a genial, urbane bon viveur who assures the teenage Alex that there are plenty more fish in the sea (“Life goes on. Love goes free.”) His serene sanguineness is the show’s beating heart."
"Though the show is practically flawless as an audiovisual spectacle, the story gradually wanes."
"In both the novel and onstage, the characters are so thinly sketched that it is hard to take their emotions seriously, especially given the conspicuous discrepancy between their professed intensity of feeling and the fickleness of their affections."
"A strange and unhealthy story"
"Aspects of Love theatre performance is based on David Garnett's 1955 novella."
"Beautifully designed by John MacFarlane, with smooth transitions between scenes depicting theatre dressing rooms, sunlit woods and an empty chateau among others, the staging has a greater fluidity than the story. Ball brings star wattage to the piece, delivering the key song as a thoughtful contemplation and is equalled by the alluring Danielle de Niese as his bohemian lover, Giulietta."
"Inconclusive, bittersweet and decidedly out of tune with the current climate, it is an unsettling experience garnished with great songs."