Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chocolate Factory Makes 'Aspects of Love' Part 2

Tonight is a repeat viewing of 'Aspects of Love' at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London. Below is part two of excerpts from a July 2010 New York Times article about the unique theatre. The portions regarding 'Aspects' are edited below:

Dave Babani, the Chocolate Factory's 32-year-old artistic director, asked director Trevor Nunn if there was a musical of his that he would like to revisit on a smaller scale. Mr Nunn said 'Aspects of Love' which happened to be Mr. Babani's favorite Lloyd Webber score, and so the revivial was added to the calendar with a budget of £400,000 (US$612,000).

Mr. Nunn directed the original West End production of 'Aspects' in 1989 and the Broadway staging a year later, and he recalled that he and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber had conceived 'Aspects' as a sharp departure from blockbuster spectacles like their previous show, 'The Phantom of the Opera'.

Based on a 1955 novella by David Garnett, 'Aspects' begins with a love triangle of Europeans that grows in size and complexity over a 17-year period. Early ideas about gently balancing the love story with a small chamber orchestra and a simple design scheme soon gave way, however, to expectations of another Lloyd Webber mega-musical -- how will he follow-up 'Phanom"? -- and more music was written, and more cooks entered the producing kitchen.

"I can't really recall the precise moment when the original 'Aspects' went from small scale to big scale," Mr. Nunn said. "But i feel the story got swallosed up with those 17 or so musicians and the massive design.

The simplified revival, which has an 8-musician, 12-instrument band, has allowed Mr. Nunn to spend time working with his cast on the show's emotional arc. The first two weeks of rehearsal involved almost no music work; rather, he said, the cast read the lyrics, by Don Black and Charles Hart, as if they were dialogue and spent time improvising scenes to find nuances in tone, gestures, body language and readings.

Audiences leaving the theatre through lobby/bar.
Michael Arden, an American actor who plays Alex, the male lead in 'Aspects', said the feel of the Chocolate Factory forces actors "to be completely truthful with the material rather than try to emotionally projects, because there's no balcony to play to." He added, "The people are the driving forces of the shows here, not a crashing chandelier, not a turntable."

'Aspects' opened on July 15 to strong reviews from critics, who generally concluded that the unvarnished staging put the poignancy of the relationships in sharp relief. Some reviews suggested that the revival was good enough to move to the West End or even Broadway.

For future productions at the theater visit Click here for the part 1 post published on 9/17/10 or click here for the full NY Times article.


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