Friday 26 May 2023


Theatre review: Aspects of Love at the Lyric Theatre

Aspects of Love is a sung-through Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that is not quite as well-known as his classics Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Phantom of the Opera. But he wrote it immediately after the latter and there are recurring themes of unrequited love, the dramatics of the theatre, and obsession running throughout both. The show was first staged in the West End in the late 1980s with Michael Ball taking on the role of the young Alex. Nearly 35 years later, the actor returns to the show as George, Alex's uncle who gets entangled in an affair with his nephew's lover.  

About Aspects of Love

In ravaged post war France, beautiful actress Rose Vibert (Laura Pitt-Pulford) finds herself homeless and penniless after her hoped-for career break play closes early. Invited to a country villa by a love struck young American, Alex Dillingham (Jamie Bogyo), she impulsively accepts. When unexpectedly interrupted by Alex’s distinguished uncle George (Michael Ball), everything changes.


When the show opened in the 1980s, it was the third theatrical hit in a row for Michael Ball, after Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. Over three decades later, he is of course still a tour de force on the West End stage and it's a delight to see him return to Aspects of Love, albeit in a different role. The character of George is very much a secondary one, but the musical has been adapted to ensure that its top-billing star can still wow audiences with his deep baritones as he performs the iconic song "Love Changes Everything" (which he also sung as Alex in the original production).  

For someone, like myself, who didn't see the original show and doesn't have a nostalgic fondness for the story or the score by Andrew Lloyd Webber (with lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart), this performance is one of the few highlights in the 2023 production. Because while the cast is unanimously outstanding, and the sweeping tones of Lloyd Webber's arrangements reveal glimpses of his most famous songs, the story is hugely problematic. And it's hard to get past that. 

The musical is based on a book of the same name by David Garnett, which was originally published in 1955. The world has changed a lot since then, most notably people's perspectives on what's right and wrong. Unfortunately for Aspects of Love, this means the story feels incredibly outdated. Not only is main character Alex just 18 when he becomes obsessed with the much older Rose, but later in the show Rose and George have a girl of their own; Jenny. And Jenny and Alex have something going on when she has just turned of age (which has actually been adapted from the original where she was even younger). Considering that he saw her grow up, it feels very, very wrong – not to mention that they're also cousins!

The story behind Aspects of Love may just about have been acceptable in the 1980s, but in 2023 it doesn't hold up. While the fantastic cast act out their hearts and there is one iconic and memorable song that received a roaring round of applause from the largely older audience at the Lyric Theatre, it's just not enough to sweep new audiences off their feet. Andrew Lloyd Webber has always had a fascination in his shows for obsession and unusual romantic relationships. But while some, such as Phantom, have stood the test of time, this one is best left in the past. 

Aspects of Love is playing at the Lyric Theatre until 11 November 2023 and you can book your tickets here.

Disclaimer: Tickets were gifted to me by London Box Office, but this has not impacted this honest review.

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