Once again a brave theater group is giving a surprisingly effective revival to a difficult cult musical which its admirers insist was never properly appreciated. And once again I've belatedly been introduced to a well-known old show and impressed by the performance. But again I've had to admit that I think the thing deserved to be a flop and still does.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love ran more than three years in London and had several hit recordings. But then, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express ran more than three times that long in London, so the West End is no hallmark of taste. On Broadway, Aspects lost millions. But it made millions just on the sale of its song, "Love Changes Everything," which occurs in one form or another during this show even more often than I yawned.
Actually, the first two hours mostly kept me alert and fidgety over their endless variations on tasteless romantic drivel. The title offers a clue to the show's worst element --- its impossibly vacuous plot. Aspects? Would you trade three aspects for two categories and a thing?
We meet a handsome young soldier (Alex) who falls in love with a glamorous actress (Rose), who ditches him for his wealthy uncle (George), who marries her but keeps his Italian mistress (Giuletta), who has a love affair with Rose too.
When the soldier returns from Malaya (don't ask), he meets the actress in her dressing room attended by her lover Hugo (him you can forget). So he goes home with her to make out at George's place and meets their (George and Rose's) daughter Jenny. Jenny is not just precocious but predatory at 15, and she's his cousin.
So she and Alex (the soldier --- pay attention) fall in love. But Uncle George, now in his 80s, gets so upset that his daughter and his nephew are hot for each other's aspects that he has a heart attack and dies. Alex finally meets George's mistress Giuletta, and during the funeral tango, they run off to sleep together.
Finally, although both mother and daughter want him to stay with one of them, Alex goes away with Giuletta. And guess what he sings to conclude that "love will never let you be the same"?
Don Black and Charles Hart's lyrics reincarnate bits and pieces of familiar older stuff with such banality that climactic passages like the following, by contrast, sound dramatic and poetic: "Your words are generous, but, alas, untrue... She would be better off with you."
There are nine other people, but I'm giving you a break. Daniel Cohen plays Alex with some charm and sings with a strong but not always prettily focused tenor. Holly Corcoran sings Rose beautifully but isn't especially convincing as the "incredible" actress "overwhelming" in her "humility," "fragility," "truth," and whatnot. But then, who could be with such dialogue?
The show is entirely sung-through, like an opera, by the way, and has no speeches. But the live orchestral music constantly underneath is smothering. Even for Lloyd Webber this score is tediously derivative.
Steven Marsocci does remarkably well with the role of rich uncle George, whose characteristics, like the story's locales, are all over the place. John Haldoupis' complex, rich looking sets move constantly on a turntable to help his direction of this long, complicated story maintain fluidity. It's evidently a labor of love for him, but --- as Aspects of Loveshows in many ways --- love changes everything but junk.
Aspects of Love by Andrew Lloyd Webber, directed by John Haldoupis, plays at Blackfriars Theatre, 28 Lawn Street, Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. through May 22. Tix: $20 to $22. 454-1260, www.blackfriars.org.