Andrew Lloyd Webber’s plus-sized melodrama shrinks to fit chamber dimensions but the emotional shallowness of its characters and libretto remains the show’s Achilles heel.
Based on a 1955 novella by Bloomsbury Group associate David Garnett, Aspects of Love is the story of a 17-year-old Englishman, Alex, who falls in love/lust with an older woman, Rose, an actor in a minor French company.
Grasping the opportunity for a couple of weeks of love and free board, Rose takes up Alex’s invitation to stay with him at his uncle George’s villa in the Pyrenees. They seem to be building the foundations of lasting love.
Alas, no. Enter George, an ageing roué whose eye for the ladies is immediately engaged. So begins a round of partner swapping that sends Alex off to war in a terrific funk, draws in George’s bisexual mistress Giulietta and – much later in the piece – George and Rose’s 15-year-old daughter, who develops an ardent crush on Alex, now a 30-something war veteran.
The first half shuttles the audience between several locations at speed, which this Andrew J. Bevis-directed production does well with elements of designer Steven Smith’s set wheeled around by the cast.
After interval, Aspects seems a good deal less restless and the relationship dramas – which have the bed-hopping energy of a sex comedy minus the cheap laughs – become slightly more gripping. That said, the show’s offhanded misogyny, its cartoonish approach to the relationship between Rose and Giulietta, and the ick factor in Alex’s dalliance with his niece Jenny (Ava Carmont) stymie any deeper engagement or sense of empathy.
Produced by Walk This Way Productions with Hayes Theatre, this is a handsome, solidly produced effort from a large team of creatives. Design, lighting (John Rayment), costume (Tim Chappel) and Bevis’ direction are harmoniously integrated.
Apart from its financially ruinous Broadway season, Aspects is famous for a couple of things: first it launched the international career of Michael Ball; second, it generated a hit in Love Changes Everything, which Lloyd Webber places on high rotation throughout. Love it or loathe it, it’s one of those earworms that lays eggs in your brain.
Thankfully, it’s very well sung – as is the entire show – by Bevis’ cast, led by Jonathan Hickey and Caitlin Berry, who have the vocal chops to match the pop-operatic demands of Lloyd Webber’s score.
Grant Smith is charming as George, a whiskery cliché of a role that changing attitudes have rendered creepy, most obviously when he’s waltzing his daughter around the room while singing I Want to be the First Man You Remember.
Stefanie Jones shines as Giulietta, especially when singing There is More to Love and David Hooley, in the minor role of Marcel, Rose’s manager, sings very sweetly. The ensemble sings heartily in numbers that only serve to remind us what a very large production Aspects was originally designed to be.