book and lyrics by Stephen Clark music by Howard Goodall.
Octagon Theatre Howell Croft South BL1 1SB To 12 July 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm except 28 June 8pm, 30 June 5pm Mat 28 June, 5, 9 July 2pm.
Audio-described 2 July.
Post-show Discussion 10 July.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 June.
Sob story, more like.
Doomed love was never more manipulative than in Arthur Hiller’s 1970 movie, or scriptwriter Erich Segal’s novel version, which served as publicity for the film and was published the same year, on 14 February. Audiences wept buckets and profits flooded in.
It’s no surprise nowadays to find new plays carved out of old films, this tear-jerker included. But, given the Octagon’s often bold, eclectic programming, it’s disappointing to see them taking up this show, first produced in 2010 at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre,
Two young US uni students meet when he barges into the library where she’s working to grab a copy of J H Huizinga’s Waning of the Middle Ages. His exam’s tomorrow, but when Oliver Barrett meets music major Lauren Samuels, any interest in the Middle Ages swiftly wanes.
Yet she’s looking forward to a career as a pianist, Howard Goodall’s attractive score incorporating the film’s famous theme in baroque style. She plans to study in Paris. At first, of course, Lauren doesn’t get on with him (they never do get on, at first).
She’s not wealthy, so of course his family has to be. Paternal threats to Oliver’s cashflow if the relationship continues come closest to creating a dramatic situation – love or money? – though any point is soon washed away in the emotional ooze. His wealthy parents are formally polite but firmly opposed; her poor father is worried for his beloved daughter’s career.
If anything ensures this is a specious confection it is Lauren’s willingness to surrender a concert career to kept her once-wealthy husband by becoming a teacher. No-one, no-one, practises to her standard then gives it up unless compelled. And she couldn’t have known then her future medical history, which is going to force Oliver towards maturity.
Jenny Cavalleri sings well but can be under-expressive in spoken dialogue, which Daniel Boys handles immaculately as the kind of fantasy figure Hollywood places in Ivy League land. The playing of other parts is adequate but unexciting, while the playing of instruments by the actors gives one of the few expressions of individuality in this blandly-flavoured trans-Atlantic confection.
Jenny’s Mother/Ensemble: Holly Ashton.
Oliver Barrett III: Nicholas Blane.
Oliver Barrett IV: Daniel Boys.
Alison Barrett: Barbara Drennan.
Lauren Samuels: Jenny Cavilleri.
Dr Ackerman/Ensemble: Nick Trumble.
Phil Cavilleri: Matthew Woodyatt.
Ensemble: Jennifer Douglas, Barbara Hockaday, Tarek Merchant.
Director: Elizabeth Newman.
Designer/Lighting: Ciaran Bagnall.
Sound: Lorna Munden.
Musical Director/Arranger: Tarek Merchant.
Movement/Associate director: Lesley Hutchison.
Costume: Mary Horan.
Assistant director: Andrew Dyer.