Theatre Review: Love StoryPosted on: 21 December 2010 by Rhian Mainwaring
Successful films do not necessarily make successful shows when transposed from screen to stage, but a notable exception is the polished and intimate new British musical Love Story (Duchess Theatre) which is actually much better than the original by being genuinely moving rather than merely mawkish.
The action takes place between 1963 and 1968 in Massachusetts and New York City and centres on the relationship between Oliver, a rich, sporty Harvard graduate with his sights set on becoming a top lawyer, and Jenny, a poor 25 year-old of Italian descent who is a talented pianist. Their love falters at first, then blossoms into a romance of almost operatic proportions, until fate cruelly intervenes and Jenny is diagnosed as having a terminal illness.
Inspired by the bestselling iconic novel by Erich Segal, who ironically died earlier this year, this production with book and lyrics by Stephen Clark, is mostly tactful and restrained. Managing to be sad, not saccharine, and with an odd touch of welcome humour, as in an innovative and energetic ode to pasta. The characters sing up their emotions but also use song to narrate their story, and describe their love, as well as depict it.
The music by versatile composer Howard Goodall, marking his first West End show for over 20 years, is appealing but rather repetitive and not especially memorable. But, on a white set, a pianist, five string players and a guitarist, sitting upstage behind a pillar play well and manage to enhance the emotionally charged story.
What really gives this show its distinction, however, are the excellent central performances by Emma Williams, who, under Rachel Kavanaugh’s firm direction, makes Jenny a feisty, witty young woman who is tough and sharp but also vulnerable, whilst Michael Xavier imbues the role of Oliver with true feeling. Strong support is provided by Peter Polycarpou who makes a big impression as Jenny’s demonstrative father.
In short you do not need to be an incurable romantic to enjoy this elegant and affecting show but it certainly helps!
Plays until April 30
Box office: 0844 412 4659
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