Caitlin Berry and Jonathan Hickey in Aspects of Love. Photo David Hooley.
If ever there was a director and cast to come close to overcoming the inherent problems with Aspects of Love, this is they.
Despite a period setting, the text of the piece is dated and some of the concepts carry very uneasily into 2018. However, the production playing at Hayes Theatre, has quality all over it and with a slight suspension of analytical thinking, it becomes a show to provide a very enjoyable evening of musical theatre.
Set in post-war France and covering a period of seventeen years from 1947, the story focuses on Rose Vibert, an actress. Rose is unhappy with her current production and is easily swept away to a villa in Pau by a much young admirer, Alex. Their tryst is interrupted by Alex’s uncle, George, who is the actual owner of the estate. George was with his lover Giulietta when he heard of the liaison. These four characters will create the love quadrangle at the heart of this two boys meets two girls offering.
Caitlin Berry and Jonathan Hickey play Rose and Alex with a charming excellence. Considering the inconsistent behaviour of their characters, their firmly grounded creations sustain a genuineness of expression through a rather silly plot. Berry has a delightful vocal depth, her final solo section of ‘Anything But Lonely’ is breathtakingly good. Allied to her marvellous singing are some very successful character choices where she endows Rose with passion and jealously but also with an intelligent self-interest as motivation for the actions of both the younger and the more mature Rose.
Similarly, Hickey also ages his character extremely well. From ardent youthfulness, impetuous and suspicious, to the conflicted older Alex who is drawn to his 15-year-old niece, Jenny. The latter being one of the least palatable aspects of love in the show. Hickey gives the most famous song ‘Love Changes Everything’ a thoroughly enjoyable interpretation.
Grant Smith plays George with considerable gravitas and lower notes to die for in his superb vocal work. Stefanie Jones plays Giulietta with a blazing charisma which rounds out the excellence of the four leads. But there is terrific work all through the polished and appealing ensemble. Ava Dillingham is flighty and knowing as Jenny and there is vital depth brought to the show in the marvellous, subtle work of Wendy-Lee Purdy.
Jonathan Hickey, Grant Smith, Caitlin Berry, Matthew Manahan and Ava Carmont in Aspects of Love. Photo by David Hooley.
Director Andrew J Bevis has conceptualised the production so that intimate space is transformed into interesting visuals by the use of stylish, flexible elements that only occasionally feel cramped. The staging of 30-plus scenes is realised with added flair by the pin-point ensemble who do the changes and within the evocative framework of a decaying proscenium, the musical numbers are given room enough to move.
The costuming of this production allows for ease of movement during such numbers but still has a delectable richness, an unobtrusive echo of Rose’s name. Dusty scarlets and inflamed blooms appear everywhere, gentle and soft. As is the excellent lighting design which neatly narrows viewing focus when required and is paired nicely with an audio mix which is enchanting and romantic, especially in the use of reverb. The orchestra under the hand of Geoffrey Castles shines behind the accomplished work of the cast. Orchestrated to foreground individual instruments, the swell of the whole orchestra is delicious when it appears and adds immeasurably to the success of the show.
This production of Aspects of Love does require some selectivity from the audience who must necessarily look to the expert work of talented performers and creatives and away from some content that jars. But it is a production worth the effort to experience. A darkly romantic evening of theatrical excellence.
4 ½ stars ★★★★☆
Aspects of Love
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart
Presented by Walk this Way Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co
Directed by Andrew J Bevis
Musical Staging by Nathan M. Wright
Musical Direction by Geoffrey Castles
Set Design by Steven Smith
Costume Design by Tim Chappel
Lighting Design by John Rayment
Sound Design by Alan Lugger
Starring Caitlin Berry, Jonathan Hickey, Grant Smith, Stefanie Jones, David Hooley, Matthew Manahan, Wendy Lee Purdy, Ava Carmont, Hugh Barrington, Finn Alexander, Annelise Hall, Christopher Hamilton, Megan Kozak, Michaela Leisk, Sam Marques
Performances from 22 November 2018
Hayes Theatre, Potts Point