Aspects of Love
Lyric Theatre, London, until November 11
More than 30 years ago, I attended the first night of Aspects of Love in the West End when Michael Ball played the dashing romantic lead and his uncle by the Australian actor Kevin Colson. It’s ageing for Ball and everyone who remembers the first run that he is now playing the older role (Colson died in 2018, aged 80) but it gives resonance to its central themes about love and the passage of time.
Jonathan Kent’s revival of this sturdy old musical is notable chiefly for its good looks – the opera designer Jon Macfarlane was clearly given an unlimited budget to create some of the most beautiful sets I’ve ever seen in the West End – and of course Ball’s switch of role.
James Bogyo, as Ball’s nephew, and Laura Pitt-Pulford as the woman the two men both adore are charming, attractive performers with great voices, but Ball inevitably dominates the proceedings. The show’s creator Andrew Lloyd Webber, with his lyricists Don Black and Charles Hart, have adapted the running order so their star can still get to sing Love Changes Everything and he belts out the big number as if his life depends on it.
The show is a lot less than the sum of its parts – and the story of an older man who tries it on with basically every woman he sees occasionally feels uncomfortable post-MeToo – but I woke up the next morning with the songs still ringing in my head which is always the sign of a musical that has succeeded.
I’ll always wonder, incidentally, what this show would have been like with Roger Moore playing the older man with an eye for the ladies. The James Bond star had been signed up to play the part in the first production, but, making headline news around the world, he sensationally withdrew, claiming he was anxious about his singing voice. Years later, when I got to meet Moore, I asked him why he’d really quit. The answer was simple – he told me he found it impossible to work with Lloyd Webber.