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

Le Pain Quotidien - Walnut Street, Philadelphia

I was happy to return to Le Pain Quotidien. I visited a location in New York City and enjoyed a fantastic breakfast in their dining room. This time I visited the bakery to-go counter at this location in Philadelphia on Walnut Street in Rittenhouse Row.

The restaurant itself had the cozy feel of country inn like its sites restaurants but I had to run to be sure I made my evening plans. The best part of my menu choices was the granola yogurt parfait topped with fruit ($5.50) which was creamy and refreshing. I read that the cheese muffin ($2.60) was like eating a quiche but it lacked flavor and was rather dry and would be much better with a generous dollop of butter. An iced cappuccino ($4.30) completed the meal.

Visit for more information and locations. Le Pain Quotiden at 1425 Walnut Street (between 15th and South Broad Streets) is opened Mon-Thu 7am-9pm; Fri 7am-10pm; sat 8am-10pm and Sun 8am-8pm. The store also serves beer and wine and offers free Wi-Fi. Click the links below to view Le Pain Quotidien's core menu:
Core Menu Page 1
Core Menu Page 2

Rittenhouse Row: Shop Till You Drop Destination

(photo: ukealesfan/flickr)

(photo: ErinC/foursquare)
I had some time to kill in the late afternoon and wondered over to Rittenhouse Row. This area between Broad and 21st Streets and Spruce and Market Streets in Philadelphia is filled with a shoppers paradise of swanky stores, tony boutiques, art galleries, jewelers and many chain stores (a branch of the Apple Store is found here). Just walking along Walnut Street from Broad Street to Rittenhouse Square, the area is a buzz with crowds in search of deal.

I really didn't need anything. But I admit I succumbed and bought a cardigan sweater from Banana Republic and picked up a couple of drinks at DiBruno Bros. By the time I circled back along the other side of Walnut Street it was time to find some dinner and something to do on my last night in the city.

The top of photo is of the Barnes & Noble and a view east of Walnut Street. At left is the Banana Republic on Walnut Street. Below is the interior of Di Bruno Bros on Chestnut Street.

(above two photos: TheHopefulTraveler)

AJ Pickel Patch & Salads at Reading Terminal Market

Before leaving the market after enjoying my first Philly Cheesesteak, I picked up one last item to bring home. I was rather interested in the many bottled james, jellies, fruits, pickles and relishes at AJ Pickel Patch & Salads and brought a bottle of tiny red hot peppers for a gift to take home. The vendor is one of the dozen or so Pennsylvania Dutch merchants at Reading Terminal Market.

Shopping for gifts is always a chore so I always go the practical route and find something that can be consumed. It's better than risking purchasing something that will land on a "crap souvenir" list.

Aj Pickel Patch & Salads is open Wed 8am-3pm; Thu 8am-5pm; Fri 8am-5:30pm; Sat 8am-5pm. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

By George! Pizza, Pasta & Cheesesteaks

When in Philadelphia, have a Philadelphia Cheesesteak. Among my list of things to do in the city is to finally eat a Philly Cheesesteak for the first time. The rivalry between Pat’s and Geno’s Steaks is highly publicized but I opted to find one closer to my hotel. It was a reason to return to the Reading Terminal Market.

It’s early afternoon and I wonder through the crowded lunch crowd when I see the neon sign for By George! Pizza, Pasta & Cheesesteaks. So what the heck. I stood in the line that stretched into the neighboring vendor. The guy’s at By George! work fast but when the line is this long during the lunch, you’ll have to wait a few minutes until you get your hands on a cheesesteak.

Since it was my first one I opted for the classic of thinly-sliced pieces of steak and melted cheese in a long roll. With a medium cola, it cost $10.35. Even though I had only eaten a pastry and coffee since this morning, I couldn’t finish the sandwich as much as I wanted to. The meat was well spiced and dripping with juices.

By George! is open Mon-Sat 8am-6pm. The eatery also serves brick oven pizza, calzones, lasagna and meatballs.

Occupy Philadelphia at City Hall

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is not immune to the "occupy movement" that can be observed in major cities across the United States. This encampment has occupied Dilworth Plaza on the north side of the Philadelphia City Hall for almost twenty days. This non-violent demonstration aims to overcome economic equality, corporate greed and the influence of corporations and lobbyists on government. An unofficial count states that as of this day there were 304 tents in the plaza.

Visit, or Facebook to learn more about Occupy Philly. Even in my home city, an Occupy Honolulu protest has set up camp in Thomas Square, one of the city's first and oldest municipal park.

I don't see the harm in these protests. It serves as a reminder to governments and corporates of the current state of the economy. The persons who dismiss the movement as a blight on the landscape of the city without addressing the movement's issues are missing the point.

Fairmount Water Works & Fairmount Dam

The Fairmount Water Works buildings.
Like the Philadelphia Museum of Art nearby, the Water Works is also
designed in the Greek Revival style.
From the hill that leads to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one is
offered a view of both the Fairmount Water Works and Fairmount Dam.
Along the Water Works is a promenade that is popular with joggers.
Almost secluded behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the
Water Works is surrounded by walkways gardens.
Another view of the Water Works from the top of the hill behind the
Water Works. (photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
These buildings designed in the style of Greek Revival were constructed between 1812 and 1872 to supply drinking water to Philadelphia. Despite its purpose to house huge water wheels, turbines and pumps the beauty of the site makes it a destination for visitors and engineers alike. The Fairmount Water Works ceased operation in 1909 and houses an exhibit about water resources.

I'm not sure what this area is like during peak tourist season but during this October day, the place is quite picturesque and peaceful as the the Schuylkill River rushes over the Fairmount Dam.

The 2,008-foot-long Fairmount Dam was completed in 1821 and built to divert water into the Water Works to turn the water wheels housed in the buildings. A walkway from the the Water Works leads to the edge of the dam.

Visit for more information.

The Fairmount Dam
The Water Works leads to the edge of the Fairmount Dam.
The boat houses along the Schuylkill River and located near the dam.
The view looking down river from the dam.
The Fairmount Dam was in 1821 the longest in the United State.

Philadelphia Museum of Art: Exterior Views

Above photos: The main entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
My guidebook reveals that the Philadelphia Museum of Art, founded in 1876, is the city's most prominent museum attracting major exhibitions and a showcase for works spanning over 2,000 years in more than 200 galleries.

However upon finally reaching the northwest point of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, I chose to admire the massive building that houses the vast collections of art. Echoing the design of a Greek temple, the museum is nicknamed the "Parthenon on the Parkway." The building dominates the landscape and covers the 10 acres. The colored stone of the facade is of Minnesota dolomite and the pediment above the main entrance is adorned with sculptures depicting Greek gods and goddesses executed with brilliant colors.

Visit for more information. Hours: Tue-Sun 10am-5pm; select galleries open until 8:45pm on Friday evenings. Admission: Adults, $16; Seniors (ages 65 & over), $14; Students (with valid ID), $12). First Sunday of each month: Pay what you wish all day.

The west wing of the museum viewed from the main entrance.
The west (or rear) entrance of the museum.
View of the Benjamin Franklin parkway from the museum's steps.
The plaza that fronts the main entrance.
The famous "Rocky" steps.
Fronting the museum is Eakins Oval where stands the Washington
Monument Fountain.
The museum is nicknamed the "Parthenon on the Parkway"

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