Liz Gill enjoys this celebrated Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and finds that Michael Ball’s star still shines brightly
The revival of Aspects of Love which opened last week at the Lyric Theatre was apparently prompted by Michael Ball approaching 60. Having played the part of the youthful Alex Dillingham in his twenties he thought he might like to mark the milestone birthday by now playing the young man’s uncle, the old roué Sir George Dillingham.
In the original 1989 staging Ball performed Love Changes Everything, which became a hit and helped catapult him to musical theatre fame; it remains one of his signature songs.
It made sense therefore for the song to be given to his new role, a wise decision since the star has lost none of his power or stage presence, albeit a slightly portly one these days, and his rendition was deservedly greeted with wild applause and rapturous cheers.
I was familiar with this beautiful melody and its sweet lyrics but had never seen this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical so it was a delight to discover how much I liked some of the other numbers including the touching Seeing Is Believing, the amusing She’d Be Far Better Off With You and Everybody Loves A Hero, the gutsy Hand Me The Wine and the Dice and the powerful Anything But Lonely.
The last two are sung respectively by George’s Italian mistress Giulietta played with panache by Danielle de Niese and the woman he lures from his nephew, the beautiful actress Rose Vilbert played by the wonderful Laura Pitt-Pulford. The lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart are a perfect match for the tunes. Together they explore the theme of the show, love in its many aspects: adolescent, romantic, sexual, marital, homosexual, adulterous, parental.
The problem for me, however, was that the story simply does not do these grand themes justice. It is based on a book by David Garnett, a bisexual member of the Bloomsbury set and therefore someone who knew something about the complexities of love. What he fails to do though is make the characters convincing enough: their motivations for all the couplings and uncouplings over a dozen years remain unclear.
And one aspect of love that is notably absent is love’s ability to put the loved one before one’s self – everyone acts according to their own interests and whims – which can make it hard to care about any of them.
Put the weak plot to one side though and go and see Aspects of Love for the music, for the ingenious staging which harnesses technology to move us seamlessly back and forth between Paris, Venice and the French countryside and for the performances, particularly Ball’s. He might be 60 but his star is still shining brightly.
Aspects of Love is at the Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, London until November.