Friday, February 04, 2011

One thing after another: Love Story at The Duchess Theatre

A couple from oppposite ends of the social scale meet at college, fall in love and marry against the boy's father's wishes. The girl gives up her hopes of a musical career to support her husband when his father cuts him off. The girl is diagnosed with leukaemia a few years later and dies soon after.

This musical version of Erich Segal's 'boy-meets-girl-girl-dies' novel was too slick to be moving. We know the outcome because the story of poor Jenny Cavallieri and rich Oliver Barret IV begins at Jenny's funeral, to the song What do you say about a girl? and is told in flashback.It progresses on much the same level, one event following another, without much variety of tone.

Most people in the audience would have known the 1970 film of the same name, starring Ali Macgraw and Ryan O'Neal. Not having seen the film, I thought the music, delivered from a grand piano and some string players at the back of the stage, was the best part of this show. The lyrics were often tame, sometimes clumsy or cringe-makingly mawkish, apart from a song about varieties of pasta sung in the newlywed's kitchen, where Donizetti was made to rhyme with spaghetti.

The main problem, apart from the absence of dramatic tension, was the lack of credibility of the leads, Emma Williams and Michael Xavier, although both sang well enough. The leading man, a dislikeable 'hockey jock'. quarrelled with his father for no apparant reason and then let his ex-prodigy wife give up her music studies to support him.

Peter Polycarpou as as Jenny's deli-owning dad was credibly doting but Richard Cordery Oliver Barrett III could do little with his part but looked bemused and displeased.

Peter McKintosh's's white set, complete with white grand piano beyond corinthian columns, lent a celestial feel and a preppy sixties brightness that further drained the emotional impract.

Rachel Kavanaugh's brisk direction enabled it to be performed in about and hour and a half without an interval. I think people who liked the film would probably like this too, although it's a shame the leads weren't more charismatic and story so well known as to be predictable.

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