Segal's novella and the 1970 movie have long been whipping boys for a
particular kind of hippie-era sentimentality and soppiness. But if
anything can rehabilitate Love Story's reputation, it will be this
bright, tuneful and amiably modest little musical, transferring to
London from a summer season in Chichester.
hit it big by
giving his era their version of a Mills & Boon Victorian
rich boy meets poor girl, breaks with his family to be with her, gets
rich on his own, and they live blissfully until she contracts the
Victorian Woman's All-Purpose Wasting Disease (here identified as
leukaemia) and dies beautifully.
anything away - the ending is foretold in the novel's first line and
the musical's first song, and we're meant to experience everything
through the filter of impending doom.)
musical escape the saccharine gooiness of the novel and film (which has
been known to make healthy adults gag)? Mainly through a sharp-edged
book and lyrics by Stephen Clark (to Howard Goodall's music), which
emphasise the fun parts of the story and play down the enforced
weepiness, and by bright and attractive performances at its centre.
script may go a
little overboard in having the lovers meet cute and wisecrack their way
through life, but it's going in the right - i.e., non-soppy -
direction, and besides, he's at Harvard and she's at Radcliffe (the
American equivalents of Oxbridge) and so they're entitled to be
constantly witty in a brittle Woody Allen-ish way.
the foreboding opening song, the dominant tone of most of the
show is light and clever rom-com, a thoroughly amiable atmosphere in
which to spend one’s time.
melodies are pleasant and occasionally witty, as in a brief
quoting of the movie’s theme. There are, almost inevitably, brief
echoes of Stephen Sondheim and one song, ‘I never thought,’ that is
excellent pseudo-Lloyd Webber.
helps keep the tone light is that many of the songs are a character’s
commentary on the action rather than direct expressions of feeling,
giving them a healthy ironic distance - one of the cleverest,
‘Linguini’, gets us through a year of plot in a celebration of cheap
the doomed heroine with the keen intelligence and sharp tongue that
have been the unique preserve of rom-com lasses since Jane Austen, and
brings too much attractive vitality to the role for us to get bogged
down in the thought that the girl is going to die.
role of the boy
could have been played by a sufficiently handsome piece of wood, but
Michael Xavier gives him more warmth and personality than was
absolutely necessary, all to the musical’s advantage. Richard Cordery
and Peter Polycarpou also give more than they could have gotten away
with as, respectively, the boy’s stuffy WASP father and the girl’s warm
and ethnic dad.
Kavanaugh wisely eschews falling chandeliers and special effects to
keep things simple and small-scale, letting the cast move the few basic
props around with unobtrusive grace in front of the small onstage
is not the grandest musical in town, but those with a taste for
pleasant and unassuming light entertainment will find much to enjoy.
Oh, and unless I missed it, the film’s most famous tagline isn’t there in the musical, thank heavens.
Return to Theatreguide.London home page.
- Love Story - Duchess 2010