Love Story at the Duchess Theatre
This story set in the 1960s feels more like a period piece than Jane Austen – Jenny appears to be pushing the outer limits of feminism simply by occasionally answering back to her man. And considering the title, ‘Love Story’ doesn’t seem to have much to say about love either. They say you should always choose something that can be improved on, and many have commented that this musical does improve on the film or book, but we also feel that there is not enough meat in this pasta. The lovers are uncomplicated in their love, and the father is a one-dimensional hate-figure. There is not enough complexity to get our brains going, and yet there is not enough passion to sweep us away.
‘Love Story’ – The Musical
We note that Howard Goodall is also film composer. It occurs to us that film music is there to enhance the drama going on around it almost imperceptibly. Music for a musical on the other hand needs to be the vehicle for the bulk of the drama. Whilst the songs seemed a good way for Jennifer to express her inner life and a nice contrast to her sassy exterior, there was very little conflict or drama in the music. Why wasn’t there a duet for father and son, for example? There seemed to be too many missed opportunities here for layering, and not enough light and shade.
Are we glad we saw it?
Yes, for many reasons. Not every musical can be an out-and-out classic, and we still have the pleasure of Emma Williams’ haunting, pure voice, un-miked, and accompanied by an on-stage chamber orchestra. The staging was also a pleasure, with a realistic yet flexible set, and well-chosen detail. The ‘pasta’ scene, where the couple literally make pasta as a montage for the passing years, was a great set piece. Not quite-so-clever was the fully clothed love-making, as Charles Spencer points out in the Telegraph “during the show’s only sex scene, both Jenny and Oliver appear to have reached a state of post-coital bliss despite failing to divest themselves of their underwear”. The dialogue was snappy and there were more laughs than we expected, as well as some genuinely poignant moments.
Sadly as we write this review, we learn that ‘Love Story’ will close on the 26th Feb. A premature demise, perhaps, but the CD is available and deserves an audience in its own right. There will be a special signing at the Dress Circle shop on the 19th February.