Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Final Visit to 'Aspects of Love' at the Walnut

Paul Schoeffler (George), Danielle G. Herbert (Giulietta), Jennifer Hope Wills (Rose)
 and Charles Hagerty (Alex).
Paul Schoeffler and Arin Edelstein (who alternates in the role of Young Jenny)
Charles Hagerty, Laurent Giroux (Marcel), Jennifer Hope Wills.
(production photos: Mark Garvin)
At the cost of $35 dollars for a seat at the end of the row in the left section of the front mezzanine, I picked up a last-minute ticket to view ‘Aspects of Love’ at the Walnut Street Theatre once again. After seeing it twice in the last two days, I knew I wanted to see this a rarely performed musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Although I had small concerns detailed in my review of the show I enjoyed it for the most part and the opportunity presented itself to see this musical performed live once more. This urgency is likely due to the fact that I had no idea when I would have the experience to see the show again.

Charles Hagerty and Claire Norden (who
alternate in the role of Young Jenny)
Since I already posted a review on Thursday and yesterday explained my fondness for the material, this third post about the Walnut Street Theatre production of ‘Aspects of Love’ goes over some of the differences compared to the Original London Cast Recording that for most part is the only version of the show many know. I was among this group until I was able to see a superb production at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London last year. (Note: Spoiler Alert – this article reveals major plot points of ‘Aspects of Love.’)

The most obvious difference is the delivery of the song “Love Changes Everything” which bookends the show. In my review I indicated that turning the song into an ensemble number at the start of act one robs the Alex character of his one big song. Even at the end of act two when part of the song is reprised, the song is once again shared between Alex and his Uncle George. Because later it is divulged that the funeral is George’s, was it the intention that he should be singing from his grave? The song should have been retained as a solo for Alex. There could have been more creative ways to acknowledge the show’s main characters.

Jennifer Hope Wills and
Danielle G. Herbert
A bonus scene that is not on the cast recording nor was in the Menier production is one inserted after Rose leaves Alex where they have spent the weekend in George’s villa and George briefly visits to confront them breaking into his house. The scene features Rose and her manager Marcel at a train station. The number is fully sung using a melody heard later in the show. It does reveal Rose’s remorse about leaving Alex for a personal purpose. It softens the character. But this is quickly undone later in act one when Alex finds Rose in George’s Paris flat.

Musical director Douglass G. Lutz does not lose any the lush vitality of the music except for one small point. The final note of “Seeing Is Believing” is cut short. It’s one of the most show’s most romantic melodies and I’m not sure what was the purpose for this change. It’s a number that should soar into its last note.

Charles Hagerty
One of the best features of the production design by John Farrell is the use of a revolve stage and sheer curtains. The use of the two kept a fluidity to the musical’s storytelling as it transitioned to each of its over thirty scenes. It reveals the musical can be told, like the Menier production, in a much more intimate setting compared to the sprawling designs of London and Broadway by Maria Bjornson. Amazingly the use of actors to slide the curtains into place does not distract from the story and dressing them in non-descript white clothing was a good idea. When called for the use of projections opens up the setting used to glorious effect such as at the open of act two when Rose, now a famous actress, takes her bow at a theatre in Paris.

One usual interpretation by director Bruce Lumpkin was the transition of young Jenny into teenage Jenny. Two actresses play the role of Rose and George’s daughter at different ages. In a scene where Alex and young Jenny are enjoying a day of fun the fifteen year-old Jenny appears on stage and meets face to face with her younger self. The two actresses then briefly touch hands and do a short slow dance after which they switch places and the young Jenny exits the stage. Already knowing the story, I’m not sure if those unfamiliar with the story know what was happening at that moment. But it is nevertheless and interesting transition.

Danielle G. Herbert
Paul Schoeffler and Jennifer Hope Wills
One common cut in this production and in the Menier version but appears on the London recording is the scene where a wall has just been built at George’s villa. It’s a scene that lasts one-minute on the recording and without it neither production suffers as nothing important to the plot is revealed.

Later in act two the hayloft scene that does appear on the London recording and retained in the Menier production is cut in the Walnut version. It reveals Alex taking up with Giulietta after George’s funeral. The cut works against both the Alex and Giulietta characters. Giulietta appears very little in act two and this cut removes any sympathy for the character. Although briefly alluded to before George’s death, in this scene Alex does realize he must seriously confront Jenny about her feelings for him.

Since the production design of London and Broadway is unlikely to be duplicated and the fact that the Broadway production closed at a loss and the London production, although a hit, failed to live up Lloyd Webber’s previous piece ‘The Phantom of the Opera,’ it appears ‘Aspects of Love’ is up to for interpretation and changes.

Paul Schoeffler and Jennifer Hope Wills
Charles Hagerty and Jennifer Hope Wills
Even in 1991 when the production embarked on a North American tour with a new design team and new direction by Robin Phillips some liberties were taken to make the piece more cohesive such as changes in the lyrics to “Love Changes Everything”: ”Love Changes Everything, Hands and Faces, Earth and Sky” became “Love Changes Everything, Each beginning, each goodbye”. This change can be heard in some of the many recordings of the song.

One would hope that these versions of ‘Aspects of Love’ here at the Walnut Street Theatre and at the Menier Chocolate Factory serves as template for other theatre companies to produce the show. The music is some of Lloyd Webber’s best and it should be enjoyed live in the context of productions both intimate and grand.

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.

The production stars Jennifer Hope Wills (Rose Vibert) Charles Hagerty (Alex Dillingham), Paul Schoeffler (Geroge Dillingham), Danielle G. Herbert (Giulietta Trapani), Laurent Giroux (Marcel Richard); Jenna Brooke Scannelli (Jenny Dillingham) and Arin Edelstein and Claire Norden (alternating the role of Young Jenny).  The director is Bruce Lumpkin.

The ensemble
Jennifer Hope Wills and Charles Hagerty


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...