Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: 'Aspects of Love' Blooms at the Walnut Street Theatre

'Aspects of Love': The opening scene of Act 2.
(production photos: Mark Garvin)
‘Aspects of Love’ by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is swathed in romantic melodies encompassing a love story that entwines the lives of five people in various amorous entanglements in Europe over the span of twenty years. The musical is currently at the tail end of a run at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.

The musical, based on the novella by David Garnett, begins in 1942 when Alex Dilingham (Charles Hagerty), a 17-year-old soldier, is smitten with struggling French actress Rose Vibert (Jennifer Hope Wills). They spend a tryst at the country villa of Alex’s Uncle George Dillingham (Paul Schoeffler). George receives word of Alex’s fling while in Venice with his mistress Giulietta Trapani (Danielle G. Herbert). George returns to France to confront his nephew where Rose is enchanted by Alex’s suave uncle. Rose and George are evenutally married much to the surprise of Alex, who is fulfilling his call-up, but not before George, Rose and Giulietta share a bed in Venice.

Years later George and Rose have a daughter named Jenny (Jenna Brooke Scannelli). Alex returns from his service and sees a performance by the now famous actress Rose. She invites him to see his uncle at the country villa. It is there that Alex and Jenny begin a caring relationship that alarms George and Rose.

The opening number and the show’s most famous song “Love Changes Everything” is no longer a solo for Alex that opens play. Instead it becomes a duet and then an ensemble number. It may serve as a pre-cursor to highlight the main players in the musical but it robs Alex of his only solo song in the musical.

Charles Hagerty and Jennifer Hope Wills
Hagerty takes on the impetuous behavior of youth in act one but appears more comfortable in the role as the character ages all the while still retaining a boyish charm. He may not have a soaring tenor but his singing of the sung-though score is pleasant even if his English accent flows and ebbs during the evening. Wills is radiant in the role of Rose. The operatic tones of her voice fully rounds out the melodramatic character. She doesn’t sound very French but carries the role well from mistress to wife to mother. Her plea in “Anything But Lonely” is shattering.

Danielle G. Herbert and Paul Schoeffler
In the role George, Schoeffler portrays the character more of a playboy and he appears to be having fun on stage as if entertaining Rose, Giuletta and his on-stage daughter. Herbert affecting an unusual accent is earthy and lusty as Giulietta. Wearing some sexy and revealing costumes she tackles with aplomb the song “Hand Me the Wine and the Dice” which is one of the most difficult songs to sing that Lloyd Webber has ever composed. It’s quite a vocal workout for the actress.

The supporting players bring in their unique talents to the musical. Laurent Giroux is quite sly as Rose’s manager Marcel. Two actresses portray George and Rose’s daughter: a beguiling Scannelli as the fifteen-year-old Jenny and a poised Claire Norden as young version of the character (note: Norden and Arin Edelstein alternate in the role).

Charles Hagerty and Jenna Brooke Scannelli
Scenic designer John Farrell solves the swift scene changes (almost thirty of them) with the use of a revolve stage and a projection backdrops while members of the ensemble, plainly dressed in white, smoothly slide sheer curtains across the stage and move props into place. Costume designer Colleen Grady has emphasized the women’s figures in their costumes. However George seems to wearing the same pieces of clothing throughout the evening and the costumes for Alex seems could be a better fit for the actor.

The music remains lush and full under the musical direction of Douglass G. Lutz even if some of the numbers such as “Seeing Is Believing” and “Love Changes Everything” and its many reprises appear to have the final notes cut short. Director Bruce Lumpkin reigns in the sprawling material that keeps the show moving at a fluid pace.

Although this version of ‘Aspects of Love’ is short of being flawless, at least this rarely performed show as produced at the Walnut for their season opener is lovely to see and hear on its stage. It contains some of Lloyd Webber’s most beautiful music and for that reason this show is a must see. No doubt this story of tangled romantic relationships will definitely give the audience something to talk about.

'Aspects of Love' is presented on the main stage of the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. Performances run September 6, 2011 to October 23, 2011; 8pm Tues-Sat, 7pm Sun; 2pm Wed & Sat. Tickets: $10-$95; Limited premium seats available which include a $65 donation. Visit for more information and to purchase tickets online. Click HERE for premium seats.

Charles Hagerty, Paul Schoeffler and Jennifer Hope Wills
"Hand Me The Wine and the Dice": The ensemble


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