I had some trouble keeping up with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love, or at least this Hope Mill Theatre production of it. Any show that covers a period of seventeen years might be a bit much for people to absorb entirely on a first visit. It might have partially been to do with the weather – as I remarked to the theatre’s co-artistic director, Joseph Houston (the other one is musical producer Katy Lipson), I was slightly disappointed to discover it was just as hot in Manchester as it was in London. His theatre (co-owned with his husband William Whelton) was doing what London’s smaller performing arts venues do in a heatwave: fans were blasting hot air around, only to be switched off just before the show was about to start (too much of a distraction, apparently), and then whacked back on the second the house lights come up for the interval.
The lighting (Aaron J Dootson) is good – it’s night when it’s night and it’s day when it’s day. The orchestrations have been pared back, perhaps a little too much, with just two pianos (Gareth Bretherton and Johnny James) and a percussionist (Phil Stevenson). In these days of the #MeToo ‘trend’ and revelations about instances of inappropriate behaviour, it’s easy to think of Alex Dillingham (Felix Mosse) as someone who simply can’t keep his dick in his trousers. But in the living room ambience created by this production, it becomes clear that sometimes it is the determination of others that gets him tangled up.
Still, who is sleeping with whom? It also doesn’t help that not very many people are particularly likeable. Rose Vibert (Kelly Price) is not quite a diva actress but there is an air of snootiness about her, while George (Jerome Pradon), Alex’s uncle, is charming to begin with but becomes ultra-defensive to the point where his health suffers for his rage and bitterness. Jenny (Eleanor Walsh), can’t help being the daughter of George and Rose. I didn’t get much sense of there being a same-sex affair between Rose and Giulietta (Kimberly Blake), apart from a full-on kiss at the close of Act One. Hopelessly underwritten. Oh, and Giulietta was at one point shagging George. See what I mean about struggling to keep up?
There’s a Lloyd Webber musical about cats, and another about trains. Both are preferable to this one about people. There wasn’t anything wrong with the production, at least not for me – it’s not like Alex’s lyric about a night seeming like a lifetime in ‘Love Changes Everything’ is a metaphor for the show. Mind you, other lyrics in that song are just odd. Take, “Love, love changes everything / Hands and faces, earth and sky.” Love changes someone’s hands? How? But the true irony of the song, and of the show, is that there’s a seeming lack of understanding amongst characters between what constitutes true love, and what is really just lust. Thus, spoiler alert, despite the title of the show’s most famous song, most characters remain resolutely unchanged.
Felix Mosse in the lead role sings brilliantly, beautifully even, seemingly effortlessly gliding through the soaring melodies as the romp-a-thon goes on. Some charming choreography (Sam Spencer-Lane) is to be enjoyed in circus scenes, and without giving too much away, the production does extremely well in navigating the many scene changes inevitably required in a show that keeps jumping between Pau, Paris and Venice. The slickness and high standards of this production win out over a bizarre plot.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.