BWW Reviews: ASPECTS OF LOVE Moving, Problematic and Worthy in Theo Ubique's Gutsy Production
Playing now through April 21, 2013 at the No Exit Café in Rogers Park, and officially opening yesterday, the rarely seen Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Aspects of Love" has been very competently mounted by the consistently high-quality storefront non-Equity company, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. And this 1989 London show, receiving what I believe is the Chicago premiere of the revised version first mounted in the UK in 1993-4, has been clearly intended by the company to be a follow-up to its phenomenally successful, multi-Jeff Award winning, multi-BroadwayWorld Award winning 2012 production of "A Light in the Piazza," a show with a similar post-war, stylish Continental setting and the seduction of romantic melodies in the air--not much dialogue or dance needed.
Lloyd Webber wrote some of this show during the 1980s with first collaborator Tim Rice, only to get back to those songs and the David Garnett 1955 source novel later in the decade, after the phenomenal success of "The Phantom of the Opera," and with his "Phantom" collaborator Charles Hart and his "Tell Me on a Sunday" collaborator Don Black. (ALW is credited with the music and the book--how often do you see THAT?) And it probably took a personal turn for the future Baron Lloyd-Webber when his marriage to Sarah Brightman was in trouble. They divorced in January of 1990, just before the show debuted in New York with the original four West End leads (Michael Ball, Ann Crumb, Kevin Colson and Kathleen Rowe McAllen), and Brightman later joined the cast of the show in the West End. For this show is certainly about the many types, twists and turns of love--oh, so many.
The show has its cult of followers in the US and elsewhere, and I personally know of several folk who have listened to the Original London Cast Recording over and over again. But, in an estimate given to me by Theo Ubique's artistic director, Fred Anzevino, about 10% of what you will hear at the No Exit is not on that album, as many lyrics were changed for that UK tour twenty years ago.
Some short scenes were cut as well. However, those endless, and perhaps too similar melodies, remain, most particularly and distinctly the show's only break-out hit song, "Love Changes Everything," plus the wistful, "The First Man You Remember," the soaring "Seeing Is Believing," the wrenching "Anything But Lonely," and the whirling frenzy of "Hand Me the Wine and the Dice."
Director Fred Anzevino has assembled almost the same artistic staff and design team as last year's "Piazza" success, and he hired "Piazza" star Kelli Harrington to play Rose Vibert, the character who makes love to four (and probably five) of the other characters during the course of the evening. She is quite a wonder, actually, in this role vaguely reminiscent of a young Desiree in "A Little Night Music," singing beautifully in a blend of Ann Crumb's strong belt and Brightman's airy soprano but sounding like neither. Her acting is fierce and committed, her presence unmistakable. As Alex, the young man who matures from 17 to 34 during the show, Matthew Keffer makes his company debut a strong one, carrying Alex's innocence and growth on his thin frame and broad shoulders, singing with a voice high and bright in the climaxes, surprisingly low and dark on the deeper moments of this vocally challenging role.
As Alex's uncle and Rose's husband, the painter George, Sean Thomas is interesting and brings old world charm, cuddlier than one might imagine, singing simply and forthrightly. And as the Italian sculptress Giulietta, who beds each of the other three leads, Colette Todd is fine, but seems wasted. Having seen her in other productions and knowing what she is capable of, her casting here seems an embarrassment of riches. She needs more to do! In Act Two, we meet 13-15 year-old Jenny, played (to our embarrassment and our reassurance) by the college graduate Rochelle Therrien, lovely and petulant and beguiling as she should be.